Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Terry Trueman Week - Day 2

Hi Readers!

Terry Trueman Week continues with another guest post … Sarah is a graduate student at St. John Fisher college and she is graduating this spring with a Master’s degree in Literacy Education. She hopes to teacher 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade. Her favorite YA books are the books in “The Hunger Games” series – a friend recommended them to her last summer and she loved them. (And is anxiously anticipating the release of the movie!) Sarah is most looking forward to meeting Terry Trueman at TBF.

Today, Sarah shares her thoughts on Terry’s first novel, “Stuck in Neutral.” (And to any of my readers who are teachers, or any of my teen readers who would like to become teachers, check out the last paragraph of Sarah’s review.)

“Stuck in Neutral” is a compelling story. The main character, Shawn McDaniel, is misunderstood by everyone. To the world, Shawn is physically disabled, unable to control his physical movements and unable to communicate. He also suffers from mass seizures several times a day. However, unbeknownst to world, Shawn is a genius. He has an incredible memory in which he can recall every word from conversations around him. He even remembers experiences as far back as his childhood. He is able to read and understand what people say about him. He is just like every other teenage boy in that he has favorite foods and music and even likes girls. As the story develops, readers begin to notice the relationship between Shawn and his father is very complex. Shawn’s father loves Shawn so much that he even considers putting Shawn out of his “misery.”

Reading this text challenged my own bias and assumptions. Just because an individual is unable to communicate or control his or her body, does not mean they are incapable of thoughts and ideas. I think this is an assumption that many members of society make. As a teacher, it is important to discourage these assumptions and biases. One day we may have a student like Shawn in our classroom.

I believe this book would appeal to teens. Shawn’s thoughts demonstrate that he is just a normal teenager on the inside. He is relatable to most teens. Trueman also uses humor in his writing, which adds another component to the story. Additionally, the author uses suspense, which keeps the reader engaged, and coming back for more.

This text could be incorporated into the classroom curriculum. It touches on many controversial issues. It promotes critical thinking. What would individual students do if they found themselves in Shawn situation? Students also have to challenge some of the assumptions and biases they may hold against disabled individuals. This book also connects text to real world issues that they may encounter. Euthanasia is another example of a controversial issue that could be debated in the classroom after reading this book. This novel promotes higher levels of thinking and encourages discussion.

Sarah, thanks for sharing your thoughts on “Stuck in Neutral” with us!

Readers, Friday will be the final week of Terry Week – don’t miss it!

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