ADDRESSES: Home—PA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Dutton Books, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
CAREER: Music educator.
Black-eyed Suzie (young-adult novel), Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2002.
The Boy from the Basement (young-adult novel), Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Susan Shaw's young adult novels concentrate on the problems of family abuse and mental illness. In Black-eyed Suzie, she examines the circumstances that have caused a twelve-year-old girl to withdraw from life. Suzie spends her days sitting in a chair with her knees drawn up, refusing to eat or sleep and withdrawing into a fantasy world of pink, fluffy clouds to escape something horrorible in her real life. "Hers is a world fraught with serious troubles that remain undetermined until late in the novel," explained reviewer Sharon Fagan in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, "which keeps readers wondering, 'What happened to Suzie? Accident? Anorexia? Narcolepsy? Alcoholism? Abuse?' Whatever the cause, Suzie's symptoms are life-threatening. She cannot eat, sleep, or walk, never mind draw, play, or laugh."
Although her mother and sister dismiss her behavior as a phase she is passing through, her Uncle Elliott recognizes the symptoms a larger problem and demands that she be admitted to a local hospital. Isolated from the abuser who has caused her problem, Suzie begins a slow process of recovery, assisted by fellow patients Karen and Joshua, who approach her problem from opposite ends: Joshua by befriending her through their mutual love of soccer, Karen by taunting her and forcing her to confront her abuser. The key event in sparking Suzie's recovery, however, is a visit from her sister Deanna. "When Suzie realizes that their mother has turned her anger toward Deanna in Suzie's absence," Ann M.G. Gray related in Book Report, "Suzie cannot stay silent any longer."
Shaw's second novel also centers on the problem of child abuse and recovery. The Boy from the Basement tells the story of Charlie, a twelve year old who has been banished to the cellar by his father for some minor infractions. Charlie is only able to come upstairs at night, when his parents are asleep, to search for food and to use the bathroom. One night, however, he accidentally locks himself out and is forced to wander the unfamiliar streets of his neighborhood. Soon he is confined to a hospital, where the details of his abuse emerge. He finds a new home with a foster family but is still troubled by the memories of his biological family. "As the boy works with a psychiatrist and begins to trust his foster family," explained Faith Brautigam in School Library Journal, he gains the power to confront his abusive and controlling father. The Boy from the Basement is "a searing story that is part thriller," stated Hazel Rochman in Booklist, "… and part gentle narrative about finding a home." "Shaw's simple language and sentence structure," said a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "effectively contribute to the realism of her psychological tale."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 2002, Debbie Carton, review of Black-eyed Suzie, p. 1592; November 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of The Boy from the Basement, p. 574.
Book Report, September-October, 2002, Ann M.G. Gray, review of Black-eyed Suzie, p. 59.
Childhood Education, mid-summer, 2002, Hillary Arndt, review of Black-eyed Suzie, p. 308.
Children's Bookwatch, February, 2005, review of The Boy from the Basement.
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, February, 2003, Sharon Fagan, review of Black-eyed Suzie, p. 447.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2004, review of The Boy from the Basement, p. 920.
Kliatt, September, 2004, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of The Boy from the Basement, p. 16.
School Library Journal, May, 2002, Susan Oliver, review of Black-eyed Suzie, p. 160; November, 2004, Faith Brautigam. review of The Boy from the Basement, p. 154.