Born in 1920 with cerebral palsy and dismissed by ignorant doctors as feeble-minded, Petey Corbin spends all but the first two years of his long life institutionalized, his world barely larger than the walls of an asylum ward or, much later, nursing home. Within those walls, further imprisoned in an uncontrollable, atrophied body, he nonetheless experiences joy and love, sorrow, loss, and triumph as intensely as anyone on the outside. Able to communicate only with rudimentary sounds and facial expressions, he makes a series of friends through the years; as a very old man in a 1990s setting, he comes into contact with Trevor, a teenager who defends the old man against a trio of bullies, and remains a loyal companion through his final illness. This is actually two books in one, as with a midstream switch in point-of-view as the story becomes Trevor's, focusing on his inner growth as he overcomes his initial disgust to become Petey's friend. Mikaelsen portrays the places in which Petey is kept in (somewhat) less horrific terms than Kate Seago did in Matthew Unstrung (1998), and surrounds him with good-hearted people (even Petey's parents are drawn sympathetically--they are plunged into poverty during his first two years by the bills his care entails). There are no accusations here, and despite some overly sentimentalized passages, the message comes through that every being deserves care, respect, and a chance to make a difference.