“Stuck in Neutral” by Terry Trueman #PrintzProject

Stuck in Neutral Book Cover Stuck in Neutral
Terry Trueman
Juvenile Fiction
Harper Collins

2001 Michael L Printz Honor Book

Shawn McDaniel's life is not what it may seem to anyone looking at him. He is glued to his wheelchair, unable to voluntarily move a muscle—he can't even move his eyes. For all Shawn's father knows, his son may be suffering. Shawn may want a release. And as long as he is unable to communicate his true feelings to his father, Shawn's life is in danger. To the world, Shawn's senses seem dead. Within these pages, however, we meet a side of him that no one else has seen—a spirit that is rich beyond imagining, breathing life. This edition features an Extras section, giving readers even more insight into Shawn's life, and includes a Q&A with Terry Trueman, as well as a sneak peek at the sequel to Stuck in Neutral, Life Happens Next.

I can’t decide if this was awesome or awful. Terrific or terrifying. Delightful or dreadful.

OK, I’ll stop.

It was short and definitely compelling, akin to a trainwreck. I couldn’t help but watch and wonder where this book was going. It’s written from the viewpoint of a 14 year old boy, which I am not, but I spend plenty of time around said beings, so….I think the voice was pretty accurate.

As I read the books in my Printz project list, I’m asking myself several questions. Am I enjoying this? Do I think this is an award-winning book? Would I recommend this to any of the students I know, or any of the adults, for that matter?

In the case of this book, first off: I’m not sure *enjoy* is exactly the right word, but I didn’t hate it. It kept my attention, and I’m sure I’ll continue to think about it for days to come.

As to the other questions: award-winning, important book for teenagers? Recommended to others? I struggle. This feels like a book that adults would read and think was important for teenagers. When I look at Goodreads or Amazon reviews, I can’t tell if the reviewers are adults or teens, so it’s hard to gauge what the target audience thinks of this one. It’s also old enough, that there’s probably not a lot of current teens that have or even will read it.  Of the books that I’ve read, only a few have really stood the test of time, as far as I can tell. I suppose that’s the way with all awards.

And so I continue on this journey. I’ve already finished another of the 2001 honor books, and just have one more to go. So far, I’ve been able to read all of these books through my Oyster subscription, Neibors (ebooks through my library), or hard copies from the school library. I don’t know why it’s never occurred to me to check out books from school before, I think of that library as being for the kids…but  that’s just silly! All those books, just waiting to be read!

Color me unimpressed — “Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging” by Louise Rennison

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging Book Cover Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
Louise Rennison
Juvenile Fiction
Harper Collins

2001 Michael L Printz Honor Book

Angus: My mixed-breed cat, half domestic tabby, half Scottish wildcat. The size of a small Labrador, only mad. Thongs: Stupid underwear. What's the point of them, anyway? They just go up your bum, as far as I can tell. Full-Frontal Snogging: Kissing with all the trimmings, lip to lip, open mouth, tongues ... everything. Her dad's got the mentality of a Teletubby (only not so developed). Her cat, Angus, is trying to eat the poodle next door. And her best friend thinks she looks like an alien -- just because she accidentally shaved off her eyebrows. Ergghhhlack. Still, add a little boy-stalking, teacher-baiting, and full-frontal snogging with a Sex God, and Georgia's year just might turn out to be the most fabbitty fab fab ever!


Originally published January 1st, 1999

So, I laughed at a few spots (out loud even), but generally? I thought this was really dumb, and the main character was needlessly silly and self-centered. There was no point (that I could discern), no growth (she was silly all the way through), and I can’t figure out why this was considered deserving of a Printz honor.

I know I’m not the target audience, but this felt to me like the worst of what YA has to offer — the kind of book that gets held up when people want to pooh-pooh YA.

As I said about a previous book, I don’t necessarily have to “like” a character to care about them, but in this case, not only did I not like Georgia, I didn’t really care about what happened to her.

From looking at reviews and ratings, I can tell that plenty of other people did think this book was pretty great. I won’t hold it against them, I guess.

Time for 2001 — “Kit’s Wilderness” by David Almond #printzproject

Kit's Wilderness Book Cover Kit's Wilderness
David Almond
Juvenile Fiction
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

2001 Michael L Printz Award Winner

Written in haunting, lyrical prose, Kit’s Wilderness examines the bonds of family from one generation to the next, and explores how meaning and beauty can be revealed from the depths of darkness.

The Watson family moves to Stoneygate, an old coal-mining town, to care for Kit’s recently widowed grandfather. When Kit meets John Askew, another boy whose family has both worked and died in the mines, Askew invites Kit to join him in playing a game called Death. As Kit’s grandfather tells him stories of the mine’s past and the history of the Watson family, Askew takes Kit into the mines, where the boys look to find the childhood ghosts of their long-gone ancestors.

A Michael L. Printz Award Winner
An ALA Notable Book
Publishers Weekly Best Book

After a week of work, reading other stuff, and life, I finally finished the 2001 Michael L Printz Award Winner, Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond.

And by “finally” — I mean it took me all week to get through it, because it started so slowly for me. I think I had a bit of a bias, having found myself underwhelmed by Skellig, his first children’s book. I felt like I had to talk myself into giving this a chance, and am glad I did, because I ended up enjoying this quite a bit.

It’s a little bit magical? mystical? with beautiful turns of phrases. I think that’s the thing that gets me with a lot of books I read now, is watching the words, and how simple they are, but how complex and amazing they turn out to be when put together by someone with skill.

This is a lovely gem of a book, and I hope there are still actual teenagers out there taking the chance to read this book.

Done with the year 2000, my thoughts so far #PrintzProject


I know I read fast, but I also had a 3 day weekend and new project momentum spurring me on, so I’ve already read and posted about the first 4 (of 77 books) in my challenge to read all of the Michael L Printz Award winners and honor books.

Luckily for me, all four were books that I enjoyed reading. Enjoy? But Suzanne — you were reading about a teenager on trial for murder and about a 13 year old who was raped! To me, enjoy doesn’t mean…happy and sunlight and rainbows….it means…I had that feeling of being outside myself, witnessing something fascinating and interesting….it means….I cared about someone’s journey….and I learned about something outside my own experience. It means I was moved by beautiful writing (WHY, oh WHY can’t I write like that??)

Not having read any of the other potential candidates for honors in the year 2000, I don’t know why these four were picked over any others, but I don’t disagree that at least three of these were important books for teenagers. I have a squabble with the fourth, but I’m willing and able to admit that I really don’t know what I’m talking about.

I think it’s a hard thing for people to understand and differentiate between: “this THING isn’t for me, but I can see where others might like it” and “this THING sucked and anyone who likes it is stupid.” Most of the time, if you don’t like something, it’s the former, but too many always default to the latter. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do when I bounce off of a book in the list. It will likely depend on my mood and why I’m bouncing. I have reached a point in my life where I don’t have a lot of patience for reading a book I really don’t like, so…I guess I’ll have to cross that bridge when I come to it.

Some of you may be wondering why I’m doing this, what’s the point in a 42 year old high school secretary reading and writing about a bunch of award-winning books written for teenagers?? Well, I have several reasons, most of which I’m not ready to articulate and one which I will: because I want to. And I’m looking forward to continuing.

I don’t know why I avoided “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson #Printzproject

Speak Book Cover Speak
Laurie Halse Anderson
Juvenile Fiction
Listening Library
2006 (originally published in 1999)

2000 Michael L Printz Honor Book

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

While Monster was a book I had heard of, it was one that was just on my radar, but not as something I was either choosing to read or not choosing to read. (Gah, that sounds really stupid. What I mean is…I was neutral about it…). On the other hand, I have heard of Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, and had actively chosen not to read it. This is the final book from the 2000 Michael L Printz honored books list, and I had to read it, whether I wanted to or not.

I don’t really know why I was avoiding it.  For one thing, my TBR list is pretty epically long — but if I’m being honest, I thought it seemed like it might be too depressing, or too preachy (really, why did I think that?), or something. I knew about it mostly from the posts going up around the times when it had been challenged, such as in 2013 when it was labelled “child pornography.” Seriously. Now, when I was reading it (actually listening to the audiobook), I didn’t actively think about the fact that I knew it had been challenged, but afterwards, when I was poking around on the Internet, I was shocked to be reminded of this.

Because the people who think this is are completely nuts and in need of a reading comprehension refresher.

Will this book make a parent uncomfortable? Probably — there is some strong language, but it’s no different than what teenagers are saying to each other, and frankly a lot cleaner. And, of course, it’s about rape. There’s so, so much wrapped up in just that one little word. And the idea that kids shouldn’t read dark books is just…so…horrifying. Dark things happen to them. Every day. That’s the horrifying part. Reading about someone who has gone through something and come through the other side, maybe that will make them hopeful.

For a book about such a hard topic, there was quite a bit of humor. I chuckled a lot. I cried a little, too. I remember being in high school and feeling so many feelings. Looking back, I know that I felt like the social order in my school was just as rigid as the one at Melinda’s school. I was a chorus kid, we were pretty far down on the ladder. The part I get now, though, is that everyone, no matter which group they were a part of, was just as insecure as my friends and I were. No one had it figured out, even if they looked and/or acted like they did.

I work at, and my kids go to, a MUCH smaller high school. I graduated with 200 kids in my class. There are only about 150 students TOTAL in our high school. There are still dividing lines, but these kids have been together since kindergarten and they can’t quite get away from each as easily as you can when there are hundreds of kids. I don’t know which is better. Just different, I guess.

I didn’t realize until after finishing that this was Anderson’s debut novel. It’s wonderfully written, and completely deserves the accolades it’s gotten. I’m glad I took on this project to read the Printz books, as it got me to read a really amazing book that I shouldn’t have avoided for so long.