True to its title, this
gallows-humor–inflected memoir offers a frank look at life as a lucky young man
with a potentially fatal disease.
Burcaw sets the tone of his candid memoir with a memorable introduction: the view of his brother Andrew’s ankle hair as Andrew helps him to urinate. Burcaw has spinal muscular atrophy, a progressive disease affecting his whole body. Fortunately, he’s also surrounded by supportive family and friends. He’s parlayed his experiences—from a broken femur and feeding tubes to romance—into a popular Tumblr also called Laughing at My Nightmare, leading him to start a nonprofit. With snark, swagger and self-deprecation, Burcaw explains from the beginning (“I was the laziest fetus you’d ever meet”) how SMA has shaped his mission. Expository vignettes jump from childhood to college and back to high school, detailing how his mischievous nature and sense of humor have set him apart from other students with disabilities and eased his insecurities. Teens with and without disabilities should be able to relate to Burcaw’s obsession with appearing as typical as possible, though his judgment of other students with disabilities—disclaimers notwithstanding—gets old. Boys in particular, perhaps, will appreciate his unflinching discussion of sex and disability, a rarely explored question. When things get too heavy, quips in speech bubbles lighten the mood.
With reflections camouflaged in wisecracks, Burcaw demonstrates that a little humor goes a long way. (Memoir. 14-18)