Laughing at my nightmare
by Burcaw, Shane

"With acerbic wit and a hilarious voice, Shane Burcaw describes the challenges he faces as a twenty-one-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy. From awkward handshakes to having a girlfriend and everything in between, Shane handles his situation with humor and a "you-only-live-once" perspective on life. While he does talk about everyday issues that are relatable to teens, he also offers an eye-opening perspective on what it is like to have a life threatening disease"-

Shane Burcaw is a twenty-one-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy. He is currently a junior at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, studying English. Shane runs a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money for muscular dystrophy research.

Burcaw has spent most of his life in a wheelchair with progressively debilitating spinal muscular atrophy, but instead of soberly presenting the ups and downs of a potentially bleak existence, he pens an uplifting, laugh-out-loud memoir that calls out the absurdity of his circumstances, and the joy he finds in the everyday. He shares such universal moments as cops-and-robbers games in preschool, as well as more unique, intimate details of his physical reality, such as the demands of excretion, or how he pursues a healthy young-adult sex life when he is keenly aware that his weakening neck can't quite hold up his head. Quick-witted Burcaw demonstrates mastery in expressing accessible insights that are well padded in humor, as well as a realistic awareness of his situation, leavened by tongue-in-cheek hyperbole, none of which gives way to off-putting egoism or navel gazing. Burcaw's smart, gracious, and funny take on his life is an object lesson in positivity, and this eloquently written and moving memoir would easily find a home in both adult and youth collections. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

True to its title, this gallows-humor-inflected memoir offers a frank look at life as a lucky young man with a potentially fatal disease. Burcaw sets the tone of his candid memoir with a memorable introduction: the view of his brother Andrew's ankle hair as Andrew helps him to urinate. Burcaw has spinal muscular atrophy, a progressive disease affecting his whole body. Fortunately, he's also surrounded by supportive family and friends. He's parlayed his experiences—from a broken femur and feeding tubes to romance—into a popular Tumblr also called Laughing at My Nightmare, leading him to start a nonprofit. With snark, swagger and self-deprecation, Burcaw explains from the beginning ("I was the laziest fetus you'd ever meet") how SMA has shaped his mission. Expository vignettes jump from childhood to college and back to high school, detailing how his mischievous nature and sense of humor have set him apart from other students with disabilities and eased his insecurit ies. Teens with and without disabilities should be able to relate to Burcaw's obsession with appearing as typical as possible, though his judgment of other students with disabilities—disclaimers notwithstanding—gets old. Boys in particular, perhaps, will appreciate his unflinching discussion of sex and disability, a rarely explored question. When things get too heavy, quips in speech bubbles lighten the mood. With reflections camouflaged in wisecracks, Burcaw demonstrates that a little humor goes a long way. (Memoir. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus 2014 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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