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Shawn McDaniel is an enigma and a miracle—except no one knows it, least of all his father. His life is not what it may seem to anyone looking at him. Not even those who love him best have any idea what he is truly like. In this extraordinary and powerful first novel, the reader learns to look beyond the obvious and finds a character whose spirit is rich beyond imagining and whose story is unforgettable.
My life is like one of those "good news-bad news" jokes. Like, "I've got some good news and some bad news—which do you want first?"
I could go on about my good news for hours, but you probably want to hear the punch line, my bad news, right? Well, there isn't that much, really, but what's here is pretty wild. First off, my parents got divorced ten years ago because of me. My being born changed everything for all of us, in every way. My dad didn't divorce my mom, or my sister, Cindy, or my brother, Paul—he divorced me. He couldn't handle my condition, so he had to leave. My condition? Well, that brings us to the guts of my bad news.
Books for the Teen Age 2001 (NYPL), Books for Youth Editor's Choice 2000 (Booklist), Top 10 Youth First Novels 2000(Booklist), 2001 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA), 2001 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers (ALA), and 2001 Michael L. Printz Honor Book
Fourteen-year-old Shawn McDaniel, who suffers from severe cerebral palsy and cannot function, relates his perceptions of his life, his family, and his condition, especially as he believes his father is planning to kill him.
My name is Shawn McDaniel. My life is like one of those "good news—bad news" jokes. Like, "I've got some good news and some bad newswhich do you wanna hear first?"
In the jokes, it's always the good news first, so here goes: I've spent my entire time on planet Earth, all fourteen (almost fifteen!) years I've been alive, in Seattle. Seattle is actually a hundred times cooler than you could believe unless you lived here too. Some people gripe and moan about the rain and the weather, but I love Seattle. I even like the rain.
Our house is about a mile from the Seattle Center, home of the Space Needle, Key Arena where the Sonics play, and the Pacific Science Center. And we're only about a mile and a half from Bell Town, the unofficial former Grunge Capital of the universe. I'm the youngest kid in our family, three years younger than my sister, Cindy, and two years younger than my brother, Paul, who, although I'd hate for them to know I admitted it, are pretty cool for a brother and sister.
Okay, that's good news, huh? Here's some more: I have this weirdI don't know what you'd call itability? Gift? Power? Whatever name you want to give it, the thing is that I can remember everything I ever hear, perfectly, with total recall. I mean Everything! Perfectly! Totally! I don't know of anybody else, anywhere, who can do this. Most people remember bits and pieces of things they've heard in life, but I've got it all, every sound, ever.
This started when I was three or four years old. At first I could only remembermost of what I heard. But by the time I was five years old, everything I heard just stayed in my head. I can remember people talking, TV commercials, every melody I've ever listened to from boring, brain-dead country Muzak to nasty rap lyrics, to the theme music from Jeopardy!, towelleverything: lines from movies, overheard conversations that strangers were having in the street, like"Well, do you still love him or not?" I heard one lady say this to another lady while they were waiting for the bus in front of our house, and swoosh came the sound of the bus along the wet road, and its brakes went squeal . . . eeeekkk and the other lady answered, "I don't know. I haven't eaten turkey since he left on Thanksgiving."
For all you know, I might remember, perfectly, what you said to your girlfriend two years ago when I overheard you two fighting outside the Orange Julius at Northgate, or what your dad said to you in Champs when you were ten, and you and he were shopping for a baseball mitt. Remember, you wanted that Ken Griffey Jr. autographed model but your dad said it cost too much. He wanted you to buy a cheaper one made in Taiwan. Your dad said, "Come on, I can write Ken Griffey Jr. right in here," and he pointed at a spot in the pocket of the glove, and you said, "Can you really do that?" And your dad said, "Has the pope got a bullet in him?" And you both laughed. I'm not making it up. It happened. And if I heard you again, even once, after all these years, I'd recognize you, I'd remember your voice, the sound of it, perfectly.
I hope I'm not coming off as conceited here. I'm sure I am. I mean, I do think that my hearing memory is kind of amazing, but it's not like it's made me rich or famous. I just happen to have this one talent that I know makes me gifted and specialyuck! I hate that word "special" when it's applied to people. As in "he's a very special person." Geez! Who isn't! But the other side of people is true too. Everybody has negatives about themselves, stuff they wish wasn't a part of them. The bad news about us.
I could go on about my good news for hours, but you probably want to hear the punch line, my bad news, right? Well, there isn't that much, really, but what's here is pretty wild. First off, my parents got divorced ten years ago because of me. My being born changed everything for all of us, in every way. My dad didn't divorce my mom, or my sister, Cindy, or my brother, Paulhe divorced me. He couldn't handle my condition, so he had to leave. My condition? Well, that brings us to the guts of my bad news.
One bad news deal is that in the eyes of the world, I'm a total retardate. A "retard." Not "retard" like you might use the word to tease a friend who just said or did something stupid. I mean a real retard. Real in the same way that total means total. As in total retard: Everybody who knows me, everybody who sees me, everybody, anybody who even gets near me would tell you I'm dumb as a rock. Let me illustrate through the wonders of science.
Every year the school district sends out a school psychologist (scientist) to test me for IEPs (Individual Educational Plans). And every year since I was six, the psychologist gives me a bunch of tests ("scientifically normed and standardized"), which are mainly intelligence tests filled with shapes and colors, square pegs and round holes, and "Who was George Washington?" and "What's two plus one?" And every year I sit there and miss every question, fling the blocks into the air or drop them all over or smack myself in the eye with one. Then the shrink goes in and gives my mom a number: I.Q. = 1.2, or mental age 3 to 4 (that's months, not years). Then the psychologist packs up his scientific garbage and moves on to the next dummy.
This has gone on for eight years now. Every year, year in and year out. Yep, according to the world I'm dumb as a fence post. I've heard the docs explain why they think I'm so stupid to my parents and my parents explain it to their friends about a trillion times. They think it's because my brain doesn't work. They don't know that is only partially true.
Posted March 18, 2009
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this month i read a book called stuck in neutral. written by a man name terry trueman. stuck in neutral is fiction because all the events could happen in some life for real. this book was choosen by a friend she told me it was really good and the cover of the book caught my eye the picture and the color was just there saying"read me". shawn is the main character he is telling the story he is a disable kid and his father left him when he was younger because he could not deal with his son condition that he had. the events that happen in the book i could not really relate to but some of the events i could. it was was very sad, werid, and mostly confusing. it was the perfect length. on a scale of 1 to 5 i give it a 2
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Posted December 7, 2009
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