Monday, February 01, 2010

Black-eyed Suzie by Susan Shaw

Although I never read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, I know enough about it to recommend Black-Eyed Suzie if you enjoyed Speak. This novel is another powerful story about facing the hard times in order to find your voice and heal.

Suzie is a young girl who feels trapped in a box and has lost the use of words. All day long all she does is sit curled up on her chair, not speaking or eating, just occasionally crying. Her mother can't stand it and frequently gets angry at Suzie but insists it's just a stage and fights getting her daughter help. Soon Uncle Elliot - her father's boss - comes and takes Suzie to the hospital where she is admitted. The long journey begins as Suzie remembers her mother's temper and violence and learns to trust the doctors and nurses, but she still can't find the words to speak, especially since it means hurting the ones she loves. She also makes friends with fellow patients and enemies with others - only to discover some problems aren't as obvious as you might think. Soon, though, when her sister's life is in danger, Suzie finds her voice and discovers that sometimes the truth hurts, but silence can be even more painful.

I couldn't get into Speak because of the choppy, snapshot format of the novel and while Black-Eyed Suzie is a little bit choppy, I felt as though it created a more fluid, detailed story. I wish it went a little bit more into the lives of the others at the hospital because Suzie's constant silence became somewhat annoying. Maybe if there was more going on around her, the silence wouldn't become so monotonous. For example, Karen finally started to develop and right when it gets good, her story is left hanging. True, some people don't recover, but don't give us a taste and then take it away.

This was a very easy novel to read, therefore making it accessible to everyone. It has a great message and definitely is a novel people should read, especially for teens living in abusive relationships - whether with parents or boyfriend/girlfriend. Silence doesn't solve anything. By not speaking, no one gets the help they need - you're only protecting the abuser and that's not right. Yes, coming out with the truth will hurt, especially if you honestly love the abuser, but in the long run, the truth will be better for everyone.

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