Friday, February 17, 2012

Terry Trueman Week - Day 3

Hi Readers,

Sarah is back again guest blogging today! On Wednesday, we heard her thoughts on “Stuck in Neutral.” Today, she’s hear to share her thoughts on “Cruise Control.” (Teachers and teachers-to-be, take note of Sarah’s final thoughts!) 
So without further ado …

“Cruise Control” by Terry Trueman is a very touching story about a character that appears to have it all. Paul McDaniel is blessed with brains, popularity, and athletic skill, but in reality, he is suffering tremendously on the inside and tries to conceal his hurt from everyone. Paul is a star athlete on his school’s basketball team with big dreams of leaving home to attend college by earning an athletic scholarship. However, his brother, Shawn, is severely disabled and cannot communicate or control his body. When their dad abandoned the family, Paul felt obligated as “the man of the house” to care for not only his brother, but his mother and sister as well. Paul resents his father for putting him in this situation and feels trapped. Paul must control his anger and break free of his own feelings of guilt in order to control his own life. Trueman does an excellent job of creating a believable character that readers can relate to.

Having read “Cruise Control” prior to reading “Stuck in Neutral” my perspective of this story is somewhat different than most. If I had read “Stuck in Neutral” beforehand, I think my opinions about the characters and the overall story would be somewhat different. I believe Paul embodies many of the characteristics that many teens demonstrate. As a reader, I was able to get into his head and identify with him. In many ways he is the average teenager who feels as though no one understands him and believes that the world is against him. This story took me back to my own teenage years. It is easy to relate to the feelings and emotions that Paul demonstrates as he completes high school.

I believe this story will appeal to teens. I think Trueman has created a character that embodies many of the problems and situations that teens deal with daily. The character is very relatable. The book also contains quite a bit of humor which, makes it appealing.

In the classroom, this book can be used to discuss a multitude of sensitive topics that correspond to issues people deal with on a daily basis and that teens need to be aware of. Disability is a huge theme in this story. Teachers can discuss the stereotypes associated with disability, or raise awareness about the treatment of these people. It is also necessary to challenge the perceptions we all have about people with disabilities. Another topic to be discussed is separation and divorce. Many families are broken in today’s society and many children have difficulty dealing with the separation of their parents. Thirdly, bullying is addressed in this novel. It is critical that teachers discuss this in their classrooms, because it has become a major issue in schools today. I would absolutely use this book in my classroom.

Sarah, thanks so much for guest blogging not just once, but twice!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Terry Trueman Week - Day 2

Hi Readers!

Terry Trueman Week continues with another guest post … Sarah is a graduate student at St. John Fisher college and she is graduating this spring with a Master’s degree in Literacy Education. She hopes to teacher 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade. Her favorite YA books are the books in “The Hunger Games” series – a friend recommended them to her last summer and she loved them. (And is anxiously anticipating the release of the movie!) Sarah is most looking forward to meeting Terry Trueman at TBF.

Today, Sarah shares her thoughts on Terry’s first novel, “Stuck in Neutral.” (And to any of my readers who are teachers, or any of my teen readers who would like to become teachers, check out the last paragraph of Sarah’s review.)

“Stuck in Neutral” is a compelling story. The main character, Shawn McDaniel, is misunderstood by everyone. To the world, Shawn is physically disabled, unable to control his physical movements and unable to communicate. He also suffers from mass seizures several times a day. However, unbeknownst to world, Shawn is a genius. He has an incredible memory in which he can recall every word from conversations around him. He even remembers experiences as far back as his childhood. He is able to read and understand what people say about him. He is just like every other teenage boy in that he has favorite foods and music and even likes girls. As the story develops, readers begin to notice the relationship between Shawn and his father is very complex. Shawn’s father loves Shawn so much that he even considers putting Shawn out of his “misery.”

Reading this text challenged my own bias and assumptions. Just because an individual is unable to communicate or control his or her body, does not mean they are incapable of thoughts and ideas. I think this is an assumption that many members of society make. As a teacher, it is important to discourage these assumptions and biases. One day we may have a student like Shawn in our classroom.

I believe this book would appeal to teens. Shawn’s thoughts demonstrate that he is just a normal teenager on the inside. He is relatable to most teens. Trueman also uses humor in his writing, which adds another component to the story. Additionally, the author uses suspense, which keeps the reader engaged, and coming back for more.

This text could be incorporated into the classroom curriculum. It touches on many controversial issues. It promotes critical thinking. What would individual students do if they found themselves in Shawn situation? Students also have to challenge some of the assumptions and biases they may hold against disabled individuals. This book also connects text to real world issues that they may encounter. Euthanasia is another example of a controversial issue that could be debated in the classroom after reading this book. This novel promotes higher levels of thinking and encourages discussion.

Sarah, thanks for sharing your thoughts on “Stuck in Neutral” with us!

Readers, Friday will be the final week of Terry Week – don’t miss it!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Terry Trueman Week - Day 1

Hi Readers!

Welcome to Terry Trueman Week! This week on Carly Reads, I will be featuring posts about our TBF mascot. Our first post is from guest blogger Jessica. Jessica is a graduate student at St. John Fisher College. She is a certified teacher and is currently finishing her Master’s degree in Literacy Education. When she’s not in school herself, she’s a substitute teacher in Webster. Her favorite YA book is “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold (a cross-over book!). When she read it in high school, it helped her realize who much she loved reading. Jessica is most looking forward to meeting Laurie Halse Anderson at TBF 2012, as she really enjoyed “Speak” and “Wintergirls.”

Here are Jessica’s thoughts on Terry’s novels “Stuck in Neutral” and “Cruise Control”:

Though everyone has family tribulations, many families that have a lot more issues than what people see on the exterior. Terry Truman illustrates this in the two young adult books, “Stuck in Neutral” and “Cruise Control.” The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Honor book, “Stuck in Neutral,” was told from the point of view of a 14-year-old boy who suffers from cerebral palsy. The young boy, Shawn McDainel, is non-verbal and paraplegic, but the author illustrates Shawn to understand the world around him though he has never been able to communicate. Shawn’s family has been affected by his condition in different ways. His father left his wife and three kids because he never was able to handle the situation. His father, Sydney McDaniel, is a writer who has won a Pulitzer Prize for a poem about Shawn, seems to believe that Shawn is in pain and he is fixated on the idea of euthanasia. This disturbs the whole family and the father’s controversial thoughts leave him on the verge of killing Shawn, or not, and so transmits his inner debate to readers.

Though his father believes in “ending Shawn’s pain,” his brother tries to protect Shawn in any way he can. In the book “Cruise Control,” Paul, a high school senior who seems to live a complete opposite life of Shawn, is the narrator. Paul is a basketball star and seems to do well in high school; the problem he faces is the embarrassment of having a brother that he refers as a “Veg.” The thought of himself embarrassed by having a brother with this condition frustrates Paul because he feels ambivalence towards him. His father, Sydney, seems to bring out the worst in Paul, which creates a lot of hateful anger. The book shows Paul go through many different feelings and the hardship of having a family member who requirement so much attention, Paul seems to come in terms with what he really feels by the end of the book.

The Terry Truman books “Stuck in Neutral” and “Cruise Control” are great young adult books, particularly for students who have a difficult time expressing their feeling toward family members that have complex circumstances. The books are well-written and easy reads for middle and high school students. I took pleasure in reading both the books.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jessica!

Readers, come back on Wednesday for another guest blogger’s perspective on Terry’s novels.