by Terry Trueman
Reviewed by THE BOOK DEALER
Never have I read a second book in a series and felt as if it was better than the first. Terry Trueman’s Life Happens Next , the sequel to Trueman’s award-winning novel Stuck in Neutral , left me wanting even more.
The story begins where the first ended. Shawn McDaniel, a teen who has Cerebral Palsy (C.P.), is contemplating his attempted murder the previous night (not going to dare spoil the ending of the first book by telling you who tried to kill him!). Although Shawn appears to be disabled both physically and mentally, he is blessed with intelligence and a sharp sense of humor. He tells the story using his wit and intellect, and at the beginning of the story, only the reader is aware of the “true” Shawn.
Additionally, he is thinking about his life and what he has to live for, seeing that he has a severe case of C.P. He loves his time spent dreaming, as it allows him to escape the reality of his life, which is living in a wheel chair and wearing bibs to catch his constant flow of drool. He also loves dreaming about his sister’s best friend, Ally Williamson. Unfortunately, Ally is in love with Shawn’s athletic and healthy brother, Paul. To add to Shawn’s problems, he is a smart, funny teen wrapped up in a body that does not allow for him to communicate his thoughts and feelings to others.
Life at the McDaniel’s house changes immensely with the arrival of Debi and her “excitable” dog, Rusty. Debi, the cousin of Shawn’s mom, is left without parents, as her mom died of Alzheimer’s and her dad dies at this point in the story. She is a forty-one-year-old with Down Syndrome. Shawn feels his mother was asked to take care of Debi since she was already taking care of “one retard,” referring to himself.
Trueman truly reveals two characters who, despite their limitations, understand life better than most. Debi is the only individual that sees all Shawn has to offer, and the relationship that develops, as well as the lessons Shawn learns from her addition to their family, are touching. This amazing book made me laugh, cry, and reflect. I can’t think of a single reader who would not fall in love with Life Happens Next . Trueman, I am ready for the next book! You tell a story that holds a lot of emotion; your characters are “real”, and the lessons learned vast.