Date reviewed: 4/22/03 author’s website
Grades 7-10 Award: Michael L. Printz (ALA) Award
Summary: Fictional account of what could be going on in the mind of a brain damaged 14-year-old boy subject to grand mal seizures. Shawn Mc Daniel cannot use his muscles on command or focus attention, but can remember anything and everything he hears. His mind is gifted, his body is not. He narrates the story telling of what he knows and his daily life, his love for his family, especially his mother and including the father who could not deal with Shawn’s condition. Shawn’s father, Pulitzer prize winning poet Sydney E. McDaniel, begins investigating funds used to “educate the uneducable” and the mercy-killing of a two year old, and Shawn is convinced that his father will try to kill him, too.
Personal Reaction: Ended on an excellent cliffhanger – you choose the ending you want to believe (like The Giver). Too much vulgarity (language, adolescent fantasy) for me to be comfortable with it under 7th grade.
Suitable for Read Aloud? No – Language, sexual references
Points for discussion: Euthanasia, treatment of the handicapped
Possible classroom uses: I don’t see this as being required reading at all – too many parents will complain.
Connections to other books? A debate group may take the subject of Euthanasia (Opposing Viewpoints) during study, although technically this is murder since Shawn isn’t able to have a say-so. Everything You Need to Know About Cerebral Palsy Kids that have relatives with Cerebral Palsy or even seizure issues may be interested in Shawn’s viewpoint. Other books on handicapped characters or issues would make an interesting unit: Out of My Mind by Draper, Freak The Mighty by Philbrick deals with learning disabilities and physical handicaps, Gathering Blue by Lowry deals with the handicapped and euthanasia, etc.
Realia: wheelchair, photograph taken with a blue lens, book of poetry, pillow, books on euthanasia/cerebral palsy, etc., adult diapers
Food items connected to story: oatmeal, potato chips, smoked oysters