Suzy Suzy is an inventive and wickedly funny take on surviving the teenage years, as narrated by the 17-year-old protagonist, Suzy Regan.
The story does have the familiar tropes of the young-adult genre. But it isn’t limited to these. The complexity and nuances surrounding Suzy are explored with great maturity.
William Wall shows his skill with wry wit and humour, treating even the most sombre and bitter sequences with poignance and without melodrama.
Suzy finds it hard to live with her self-harming brother, her property-crazy father, and her apathetic mother – the book opens with: “Someone will kill my mother. It could be me.”
In a moment of sudden clarity, Suzy wonders if she is a part of a dysfunctional family. She looks up the definition online, and comes to the conclusion that she is. In one of her rants, she lets it out.
“Nobody in the family tells me anything. I was supposed to feel safe and secure in this house because the house is FULL OF FUCKING SECRETS. Jesus wept twice. It’s like we are the government except there is no WikiLeaks. Or a secret society. A Regan NEVER TALKS.”
The protagonist and her struggles are convincing. The author does a wonderful job of building up Suzy’s personality throughout. The dark humour in the story does not seem forced. It arises from Suzy’s sardonic and snarky self.
Her two best friends, Holly and Serena are well fleshed-out. Serena, who turns from a bully to a best friend overnight, is the most flamboyant of the trio. She is constantly giving Suzy advice on boys and love, all the while looking for a match for herself, too – someone with the same kinks she has.
Holly is the wisest, weirdest and most subdued of the three. Her disinterest in most affairs and worldly knowledge is the one constant in Suzy’s life. Suzy’s mam, though, thinks Holly and her parents are “Commies and Gypsies”.
“My mam is Totally Racist when it comes to actual racism. She thinks immigrants are destroying the world. Holly says Capitalism is destroying the world. Serena says it’s her parents and I say Whoever Is Destroying It Has Made A Good Job Of It.”
The book begins with a glossary of dialect terms. The entire book uses these terms liberally. I am not sure if using “Omg”, “ffs”, “cya”, and “idk”, among others, makes the characters any more relatable. But the dialect is fairly unobtrusive and doesn’t harm the flow. The author uses capitalization cleverly, like in the excerpt above, to good effect and succeeds in highlighting Suzy’s angst.
Suzy’s father embodies the capitalist private-property owner looking to make the most of the property market. Author William Wall’s 2005 novel This Is the Country made it to the longlist of the Man Booker Prize. In that book, he attacked the broad politics of the Celtic Tiger, while narrating the story of another teenager. It is no surprise that the author continues to critique this culture through Suzy’s voice:
“I know my dad and the auctioneer would give their right hand to have the house sold. They would level it with Holly and The Hippies [her parents] inside if they thought they could get away with it. They tend to see law as an Unfortunate Accident that prevents wealth creation.”
She loves her father but can’t stand his greed for property. She watches him suffer a heart attack after a deal on one of the properties does not go through.
In a casual moment, Suzy notices that her friend Serena has wounds from cutting herself, and later in the book we see Suzy spiral into self-harm too. The near-suicide of Suzy’s brother and the family’s reactions to it are reflective of the deeply flawed coping mechanisms a lot of us resort to.
There is no solid plotline, rather there is a sequence of events narrated by Suzy. And the other characters are her interpretations. The author does a great job of bringing the perspective of a teenager without reducing her, or her peers to mere caricatures.
This seems like a young-adult novel, or even a coming-of-age-story on the outset. But Suzy brings much more than that to the table. It is a hard-hitting read that is funny at times, and well worth your time.