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LIFE HAPPENS NEXT by Terry Trueman


by Terry Trueman

Age Range: 11 - 14

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-202803-7
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Trueman skates the edge of fantasy as he puts readers' hearts through a workout in this sequel to Stuck in Neutral (2000).

Shawn is completely locked out of his physical body by cerebral palsy, but inside he's a smart, sarcastic and (generally) emotionally stable 14-year-old. He takes up his narrative only days after surviving his well-meaning father’s aborted mercy killing (Cruise Control, 2004) and hasty departure. He’s already past that, though. Between rapturous affirmations that he’s developed “over-the-top, teenaged-love-junkie, mac-daddy-extreme hotz” for his sister’s BF Ally and more dispassionate descriptions of diaper changes, he notes with mixed feelings the arrival of his mother’s cousin Debi, a newly orphaned adult with Down syndrome, and her large and excitable dog, Rusty. Inspired by real members of the author’s family, Debi and Shawn are characters whose conditions are portrayed with credible accuracy—but who also display enough self-awareness, emotional range and human insight to lift them well past any sort of typecasting. On the other hand, unlike the rest of Shawn’s loving family, Debi and even Rusty somehow turn out to be able to tell what’s going on in his head, and in a further credulity-straining development, Debi shows up, disability free, in his dreams after a sudden loss.

A winning central and supporting cast provide strong compensation for a plot that seems overly worked and too tidily resolved. (afterword) (Fiction. 11-14)