Life Happens Next – Terry Trueman

This is the follow-up to the author’s January 2001 Printz Honor Award winning book, Stuck in Neutral.  It helps to read the first book but this novel can easily stand on its own.  I have waited twelve years for this publication and it is well worth the wait.

Shawn McDaniel is a young teen with profound cerebral palsy.  He has a brilliant mind trapped in a body that does not work.  No one knows he is smart – he has no way of communicating.  Shawn is telling his story and shares his positive outlook on life.  He has the most amazing patient, nurturing mother and a protective brother and sister.  His father loves him but couldn’t deal with Shawn’s disability so he makes sporadic appearances with the family.  Debi, an adult cousin with Down ’s syndrome comes to live with them after her parents die.  She brings along her annoying dog, Rusty.  Shawn is terrified of Rusty until one day when Rusty lies protectively on him while he has a seizure.  Debi and Rusty are the only ones who truly see Shawn, that there is someone wonderfully intelligent in the dysfunctional body who is aware of everything.

With characters based on the author’s close family members, the author clearly describes Shawn’s feelings of powerlessness and frustration.  He also provides insight into the behaviors of those with Down’s syndrome.  The brilliance in the writing is that this is not a depressing book; rather it is filled with optimism and a celebration of life.  It is about the daily connections that we make and the need for kindness, empathy, and caring.  Highly recommend!

Galley review    Publication date 8.21.12

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