Black-Eyed Suzie

( 8 )


Suzie is a dark-eyed twelve-year-old who desperately needs to feel safe and worthy of love. Seeking only to be "good enough," she remains motionless and silent for hours on end, feeling the walls of her psychological prison pressing against her. Ultimately, Suzie finds herself in a mental hospital where she begins a long and fear-filled journey. To make sense of her world, Suzie must piece together a puzzle that involves seemingly unrelated clues--a broken bicycle, a torn picture, peacock feathers, and ...

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Suzie is a dark-eyed twelve-year-old who desperately needs to feel safe and worthy of love. Seeking only to be "good enough," she remains motionless and silent for hours on end, feeling the walls of her psychological prison pressing against her. Ultimately, Suzie finds herself in a mental hospital where she begins a long and fear-filled journey. To make sense of her world, Suzie must piece together a puzzle that involves seemingly unrelated clues--a broken bicycle, a torn picture, peacock feathers, and more--which together reveal a secret that is likely to change Suzie's life forever, and give her an opportunity to regain her voice and reclaim here spirit.

Suzie's stay in a mental hospital helps her tear down the walls of a devastating psychological prison she calls "the box."

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Black-Eyed Susie features a twelve-year old girl, Susie, who no longer eats, sleeps, or speaks. Her father is rarely home, and her mother insists that Susie is only "going through a stage." While visiting, Susie's Uncle Elliot realizes something is drastically wrong. He insists that she be taken for care. Susie is admitted to a mental hospital where she begins a long journey toward health. During her stay, Susie meets a therapist, Stella, and two other children—one who terrorizes her, and one who offers friendship while dealing with his own struggles. Author Susan Shaw, at most times, handles skillfully the topic of mental illness in adolescents. The book is written in a fashion that makes it understandable to young adolescents who may recognize themselves as Susie works her way out of her psychological prison. Susie moves to a new understanding of why she has been ill, and finally does make sense of her world with the book ending realistically. "They lived happily ever after" doesn't happen in this realistic story, but a feasible solution is found. This book is a good addition to any classroom library. 2002, Boyds Mill Press, 167 pp.,
— Connie Russell
Children's Literature
Twelve-year-old Suzie stays in her own box, an imaginary shelter where she doesn't have to eat, speak, or sleep. She pictures a fluffy pink cloud in which she can feel safe from a world that has no love for her. Her father is seldom around; her mother insists that Suzie's odd behavior is just an act, a stage that girls go through. Suzie's older sister, Deanna, is worried about her—she never went through a stage like that. Suzie's Uncle Eliot, a rare voice of reason in her disordered life, insists that she be examined. Suzie spends the next few months in a mental hospital, where slowly but surely she begins to unravel the cause of her descent into depression. Flashbacks offer insight into the root cause for her withdrawal. Short chapters, related in the first person point of view, provide a realistic, ominous, and oppressive picture of a young girl's psychological anguish. Gaining understanding into Suzie's mother's destructive behavior is the first step toward recovery, and the reader feels hopeful for her future. 2002, Boyds Mills Press,
— Christopher Moning
Twelve-year-old Suzie is in terrible trouble. Severely traumatized by a horrific family situation, she seeks relief in a near-catatonic state. Mute, bunched into a nonmoving box of her own imagination, and barely eating, Suzie narrates this harrowing tale of her unbearable descent into mental illness. Her Uncle Elliott pays an unplanned visit to Suzie's home and is stunned by Suzie's life-threatening physical decline. Furious with Suzie's ineffectual father and her cold, selfish mother, Elliot comes to the rescue and literally scoops Suzie off to a psychiatric hospital. At first, Suzie desperately attempts to avoid uncovering her secrets at the hospital. She resists the gentle, consistent ministrations of the staff, who patiently build trust, first one bite of food at a time, then by one firm, protective action after another. They ban Suzie's mother when they see her roughing up Suzie on the premises, and they more closely monitor the physically aggressive Karen, another patient, who repeatedly goes after Suzie. First novelist Shaw powerfully unravels the complicated dance children experience in their minds: "If I can just be quieter/stiller/smaller, maybe mommy will love me." The cast of characters in Suzie's family, while playing to type with a brutish mother, emasculated father, and a golden, loving sister with secrets of her own, fairly represents the kinds of family dynamics that endanger children. Shaw shows, through Suzie's fragile recovery, that secrets kept are poison to the soul. Secrets aired are salvation. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2002, Boyds Mills, 167p,Andersen
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Twelve-year-old Suzie has completely lost touch with reality. She is unable to eat, talk, sleep, or walk and sits in a cramped fetal position and cries. Her mother is infuriated by this "stage" she's in; her father is concerned but distant. It is only when Suzie's uncle forces the family to acknowledge that something is wrong and she is hospitalized that the child can begin to heal. The book is narrated by the inner voice of a character who can't speak because she simply "doesn't have any words," and she is the only character who is fully developed. Details of the abuse that caused Suzie's breakdown slowly emerge, but when the girl is confronted with the danger her older sister is in, she heroically responds. Once the truth is revealed, Suzie's recovery is unrealistically quick, but this is a riveting story that could well serve to help other children deal with a difficult family situation.-Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590785331
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 981,338
  • Age range: 11 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.23 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

Sue, who earned her BS from Temple University, makes her living as a musician and teacher. She says that she often uses writing to clarify her thoughts, and enjoys the process. "When I'm writing well," she says, "I feel like a medium for the story." Who am I? "I am Sue, a wife, a mother. I am also a writer, a teacher, a flutist, a swimmer. I like red raspberry ice cream on a warm summer day, carousels carved of wood, and unexpected visits from friends."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating and sad

    I like how the book begins with Suzie, a 12 year old girl, admiring her mother and talking about how she's good at a lot of things then gradually it's apparent to the reader that the mother is extremely bad at one thing: being a mother. This book is partly about child abuse (mostly emotional), mental illness, and learning to deal.
    I am not exactly sure what mental illness it is that Suzie has since it is not stated and I'm no expert. I believe she has post-traumatic stress disorder which is what some children who have been abused may end up with. Either way Suzie is depressed to the point that she cannot talk or move quickly and always has to sit in a certain way. While she's at the mental institution, her mother and a few others tell her that she's not trying to talk and not trying to get better, but like Suzie says, there is no trying, it's not something she can simply do, she just has no words and that's what may help her get out of that place.
    As a reader, one will feel awful for poor Suzie and come to hate her parents and sometimes even Deanna, Suzie's sister. The fact that Suzie can't help but love her mother is awful, but I can understand that. It must be hard not to love someone who's cared for you . Her mother did have her good moments after all. What is worse is that Suzie blames herself for her mother's behavior which is what occurs most of the time with a child who has been abused. I wish someone had been there for Suzie in the beginning so that they could tell her there is no excuse for someone to hurt another and it is of course not Suzie's fault that her mother is abusive towards her. As readers find out these thoughts from Suzie, they will want to hug the poor girl.
    In the beginning of the story, the author has a few unanswered questions about why Suzie is the way she is. It's clear her mother is abusive, but it is unclear just to what extent and it's not apparent if anything else happened to Suzie. Slowly while Suzie is recovering at St. Dorothy's, there are flashbacks with clues that give insight to what happened to Suzie. These flashbacks include more information on how horrible Suzie's mother can be towards her and the awful things she's said to her daughter. The reader is also given small pieces of information that all add up by the end of the book.
    What I did not like about this book was the reason given for the mother's behavior. Supposedly she is an alcoholic, but the reader does not really "see" this so it's almost hard to believe (if that makes sense). The end itself also somewhat disappointed me because it seemed to have gotten wrapped up in a clean way which was strange considering the situation. Suzie does say she has doubts which make it more realistic, but either way, I was not a fan of the ending.
    I recommend this read for those that are interested in seeing through the eyes of a girl who has been abused and an alcoholic "mother." The author really manages to convince you that these thoughts are those that a girl like Suzie would have and boy does it put you in her shoes. It's also a neat book about friendship (aww Joshua how I will miss you!) and learning how at times it may be important to speak whether you want to or not.
    -T.V and Book Addict

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2007


    this is one of my favorite books! i read it in one day. its such a pg turner. id recommend it to ne1 and every1. awesome.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2004

    This isn't a part of growing up...

    A young girl is driven to solarity. No longer does she eat, walk, talk or even sleep. She lives in a place where love is a stranger. Her only comfort is her pink cloud. Here no one is able to harm her. Here is where she arrives her only happiness. Her mother believes her problem is just a stage that young girls venture into. She believes that Suzie only does it for attention. Suzie's uncle Eliot, whom is rarely around, senses that his niece needs some help. Suzie is put into a mental instution sometime after. The story continues with Suzie breaking down and finally understanding what her problem is. The reason she pushed herself into such a critical position was of the love of her older sister ,Deanna, and the destructive cruelty of her mother. The situation between the two and the fact that she couldn't handle it on her own caused Suzie to withdrawal herself from the rest of the world. This book helped me to deal with problems similar to this. I now feel an understanding of life and all the things it has thrown at me. By reading this book I was able to conquer my problems and break them down before they did the same to me. I believe that Susan Shaw not only helped me, but also thousands alike all over the world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2003

    You'll never read a book that will make you think about life more.

    This story was just wonderful. It was kind of sad though. I kept wondering when it would get better, and then it did. I am twelve, just like Suzie, so it put me right in her shoes. I was feeling everything she was, and the author writes in such a way that you know a 12 year old girl would in her state. You can't put this book down, but that is OK since it is a pretty short book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2003


    The book had a good plot and a good reason for the book. I do have one bad comment the horrible thing that happened to her could have been alot more horrible. I wouldn't all of a sudden start to not talk because that little thing happened. I wish I could give it two-and-a-half stars. but ill give it the stars it doesn't deserve.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2003

    Great Book, a must-read

    This book was amazing. If you liked Speak, you'll adore this book. It's hard to put down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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