I picked up Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman at the recommendation of my supervisor, Vivy. She asked me for help on finding titles for a reading list on masks (figurative and literal), to which I suggested Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. Out of My Mind is an eye-opening and inspiring novel about a truly brilliant eleven-year old girl with Cerebral Palsy. She is trapped inside of her “useless” body because she barely communicate with those around her, usually just with grunts. Only when she is given access to a computer do those around her realize just how intelligent, creative, and capable she really is.
Sadly, that is not the case with Shawn in Stuck in Neutral. He, too, is incredibly smart (he can recall every conversation he has ever heard), and has Cerebral Palsy. But he cannot communicate in any way whatsoever. He has no control of his limbs, eyes, noises, nothing. Because of this, his family and doctors are convinced that he is “a vegetable” with no awareness of his surroundings. And Shawn believes that his father, who has struggled for 14 years with Shawn’s disability, is plotting to kill him.
Shawn’s dad wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning poem on the hardships of living with his son’s disability, and has become a famous writer and speaker. Recently his favorite topic has been supporting a man who smothered his toddler who was suffering from debilitating seizures, with no hope of a cure. For this reason, Shawn believes his life is in danger. I will spare you details of the ending, but suffice it to say that it will leave you thinking, not just about Shawn but about what you would do, if you were in his father’s situation.
I am glad I read the book, but wish I would have read it, instead of listened to it on Audiobook. The narrator had an oddly joyful tone of voice, which made Shawn seem a bit flighty. I wish it had been read using a more morose tone to really invoke the seriousness of Shawn’s situation…his (he thinks) imminent death. I will recommend this book to young adult readers in need of a more serious novel, but will steer them away from the audio. I truly feel that the narration cheapened Shawn’s situation.