Thursday, January 29, 2009

Black-Eyed Suzie by Susan Shaw

Main character: 12-year-old Suzie
Location: undefined
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Fiction, Abuse, Mental Illness

Suzie has stopped talking. She has drawn herself into a box that no one else can see, but which is getting ever smaller. When she begins crying, to the point that nothing can stop her, her uncle finally insists that she get professional help.

At St. Dorothy's, a mental hospital, Suzie is treated with kindness and patience by the staff. One patient, Joshua, actually becomes her friend, but another, Karen, is always angry, terrorizing Suzie by yelling at her, tearing her picture, and breaking a mirror Suzie's sister gave her.

Slowly, we learn what happened to Suzie to make her withdraw into her "box" and when she finally leaves St. Dorothy's, it's to a much better situation. What Shaw does that is so amazing in this book is to make us feel sympathy even for the least sympathetic characters. When Suzie witnesses Karen sobbing in the common room, we realize that Karen's anger is not an indication that she is a horrible person, but that she herself has some deep problems. My heart went out to Joshua, in denial about his father's death, to Suzie's sister Deanna who finally has the courage to tell the truth, and to Suzie herself, finally coming out of her box.

No comments: