Stuck in Neutral

Stuck in NeutralStuck in Neutral (Shawn McDaniel #1)

by Terry Trueman

HarperTeen  2012

ISBN13: 9780064472135


Plot Summary

Critical Evaluation

Reader’s Annotation

Shawn McDaniel cannot tell you what he thinks, he cannot laugh or yell or give his family any indication that he knows what is happening around him and he can hear everything. His family sees the wheelchair, the drool, the feeding tubes, adult diapers and what they can only imagine must be pain and suffering. Shawn cannot tell them he loves them or that he likes his life (most of the time) and that he is actually pretty happy. All he can do is hope they figure it out on their own – his life is in their hands.

Information about the Author

Terry Trueman was born in Birmingham, Alabama, but grew up in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, where he received his B.A. in creative writing. He also has an M.S. in applied psychology and an M.F.A. in creative writing, both from Eastern Washington University. The father of two sons, Terry Trueman makes his home in Spokane, Washington, where he has lived since 1974.

According to the author’s website, “When Terry Trueman’s son, Sheehan, was born in 1979, Trueman wasn’t sure that he would make it through another day, much less live to write about it. The cerebral palsy that severely crippled his son threatened to overwhelm Trueman, who nevertheless eventually turned his fear, shock and grief into the narrative poem Sheehan and then the novel Stuck in Neutral.” – Patrick Michael Murphy.

Genre: Fiction

Awards: Printz Honor (2001), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2005)

Content Area: Feelings and Emotions; Health and Safety; Special Needs – Disabilities

Booktalk Ideas

Shawn McDaniel opens the book by giving readers his “good news” and his “bad news.” Pages 2-5 are all the hook needed to get anyone interested in reading this book.  “… according to the world, I’m dumb as a fence post. … They think it’s because my brain doesn’t work.  They don’t know that is only partially true.” Impossible not to know more from the voice trapped inside the body.

Another gripping scene from the book is towards the end on pp. 88-94, where Shawn remembers in vivid detail the day two boys tormented and threatened him with a lighter on the porch of the house. Shawn’s brother and fierce protector, Paul reacts swiftly and violently, beating the two boys in an almost hypnotic defense of  his defenseless brother. This section is powerful and gives would-be readers an immediate reason to like both boys and hear their story.

Text Measures/Reading Level:

Quantitative: Lexile Measure®: 820L

Reading Level: Grade level Equivalent: 6.1

Interest Age: Grades 6 – 8


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Additional/Digital Content:

Author Website:

Why This Book?

This book has been on my “To Read” list for a long time. I am just glad to finally have the chance to read and really reflect on it. Shawn’s predicament, not being able to help those around him understand what he has learned about himself, but rather having to wait for them, I found very interesting. I know Terry Trueman wrote this as part of his own coping and pain and although it is pretty short, it is very moving.


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