Click on the image to visit the publisher’s website or buy the book.
Julia Kelly in The Irish Times
Julia Kelly's Irish Times review of Suzy Suzy
“My mam doesn’t really look at my dad any more. Like maybe she never did idk but she doesn’t now. I don’t know if she doesn’t want to see him or she can’t see him or just to her he’s not there. But every time I see her not looking at him it hurts me. She looks at me all right. She hates me.”
Suzy Regan is a world-weary 17-year-old Dubliner, consumed with self-loathing and an intense dislike of her dysfunctional family. Her heightened teenage emotions oscillate wildly from occasional joy to more frequent despair. Suzy says she wants to kill her mother: “she has like two registers, as my English teacher would say, normal and ballistic”; a woman who finds her daughter equally exasperating: “Sometimes I can see my mother is going to hit me but she stops herself. Like there’s a little tick of bones and muscles and a change in the way her hands and her body are tilted. . .”
The book is set in post Celtic Tiger Ireland, where Suzy’s property developer dad is another source of constant irritation and anxiety, with his unpaid taxes and thickening arteries: “We even debated the housing crisis in religion class . . . and I think maybe my dad is causing it. Like single-handedly causing the shortage because he owns like everything almost.”
His insights into the internal world of a teenage girl are remarkable
William Wall is a multi-award-winning author, poet and translator, who first took up writing as a young boy when confined to bed with painful juvenile arthritis. He frequently tells his stories through strong female voices; he uses it as a distancing technique, as a way of keeping himself out of his books, and as a means of maintaining objectivity. Power has always fascinated Wall, and particularly people excluded from power. Drawn, like many writers, to describing outsiders, Wall sees women as having been (and possibly continuing to be) the submerged population.
Wall feels quite assured writing as a woman, and with good reason. His insights into the internal world of a teenage girl are remarkable – the crashing boredom, the vulnerability, the drama of her days and her moods (making liberal use of capital letters throughout the text to demonstrate these emotions) and the virtual world she spends much of her time in. Suzy Suzy comes complete with a glossary of teenage terminology and abbreviations to help the adult reader navigate a teenager’s life and mind. Wall captures so accurately Suzy’s anxiety of seeing her parents not getting along, the doll’s house fragility of the world around her as it begins to implode, the shouting and the more disturbing silence:
“I was supposed to feel safe and secure because the house IS FULL OF F**KING SECRETS. Jesus wept twice. It’s like we’re the f**king government except there’s no WikiLeaks. Or a secret society. A Regan NEVER TALKS.”
Suzy feels isolated and begins to cut herself with her big brother’s razors, but she confides in two close girlfriends whom she has known since primary school: Holly, who’s “a dote” and whose “eyes glow like the stuff inside a seashell idk some kind of pearl” and Serena, whom she doesn’t entirely trust and has a figure that is “perf” but a smile that “is the smile of a dead pollock. It just doesn’t work.”
The three girls are drawn into trying to solve a murder that centres on the new owners of local stately home Ballyshane House (which her father has wanted to purchase for as long as Suzy can remember), all the while navigating the miseries of secondary school, a country and a family in crisis, secrets and affairs, and Suzy’s father’s failing health and financial troubles.
“My dad’s heart attack went well. Or so I believe. He got a stent and they told him to stay away from work for a while. Which He Did Not Do.”
His prose is beautifully lyrical and rhythmic, his sentences clean, every word weighed
Wall has a horror of sentimentality. He describes himself “as not being a kind and gentle writer”. His prose is beautifully lyrical and rhythmic, his sentences clean, every word weighed. In Suzy he has created a vulnerable and unwittingly hilarious central character whose voice, as it propels us through sinister events, is every bit as powerful and plausible as D. B. C. Pierre’s Vernon in Vernon God Little or Francie Brady’s in The Butcher Boy.
Suzy Suzy is everything a great book should be – humorous, poignant and utterly original. With a wickedly funny central character, a gripping and propulsive plot, several unsolved mysteries and real-life, ragged endings, this is the sort of book that readers will be immediately absorbed by and which writers, like this one, can only admire and learn from.
Shrinidhi Kalwad's Dublin Inquirer review of Suzy Suzy
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.
Dymphna Nugent's review on Writing.ie of Suzy Suzy
Suzy is a 17-year old Dublin girl in post Celtic Tiger Ireland. Her father collects properties like people collect stamps, lending a suggestion of foreboding to the plot. The health of his heart is questionable at all times throughout the book, with a direct line between the success of the property ladder and the success of his heart. Suzy is surrounded by a solid army of two friends, Serena and Holly and the novel sees them develop, as a group and as individuals. Suzy’s development is hindered or perhaps shaped by her family life, toxic tension hangs in the air at home and William Wall allows us to explore teenage development when navigating so many obstacles and moral hurdles.
Wall’s style is extraordinary, he does not utilise sentimentality in his writing and typically there is no happy ending as such, he mimics real life as much as possible in his books. Therein lies the strength and the enduring appeal of his writing. Suzy is a teenager who is living through the collapse of the property market, the tension this creates at home, the strained relationship with her mother (to the extent she envisions her mother’s death on a regular basis), the moral dilemma between friendship loyalty and matters of the heart; and the wild abandon with which teenage years are often approached.
Suzy’s tone is darkly comedic which lifts what has the potential to be a bleak plot. Yet at the same time, this comedic tone provides an acceptance in this young girl, which serves to remind us how vulnerable she is and how the negligence shown her by her family is damaging and heartbreaking. She accepts the pitfalls and curveballs associated with being a teenager, she navigates the chaos of the fall of the Celtic Tiger and she lets the razorblades slice her skin as she self harms. William Wall is unflinching in his exploration of the world through the eyes of a teenager. We can often forget that the problems encountered as adults are seen by those of a younger age, those problems may not be discussed but teenagers and children absorb those problems until we have inadvertently offloaded some of our burden onto the shoulders of those who should not wear that weight. That weight can have catastrophic effects as children continue to develop.
The walls in Suzy’s life are teeming with the unspoken; secret trysts, questions of sexuality, financial and marital woes. Those walls begin to sag as the plot progresses and the female narrative voice rises above all others to become a reliable narrator and a strength in the plot. I was left with many questions at the end, some of which I was happy to continue pondering and others which I was frustrated with, yet the overall result was a feeling that I had been allowed, however briefly, to be a silent witness into the life of a teenager. We were all once in that mindset and I think, in fact, I’m certain that time eats away at those memories until we forget the importance we placed on friendships, on relationships and how we desperately tried to keep homelife separate from personal life outside the home but how inevitably, they merged. Through Suzy, William Wall reminds us of this in his trademark lyrical way. He is a wordsmith.
Read an excerpt from Suzy Suzy
From Chapter One
Someone will kill my mother. It could be me. There is something wrong with me I know, but I see my Dad thinking about it too. Only my brother loves her and she loves him idk it must be a mother son thing like you see. She thinks she is so hot. She comes home from work full of testosterone or whatever, and if someone didn’t already cook the dinner, do the washing, hoover everything including the underside of the cushions Where Dust Collects and take The Dog for a walk, it’s the end of the world and there will be Shouting and Insults and People Will End Up Crying, usually me. She works for a computer company, you can’t even get into her office without a retina scan, it terrifies me so I never go in. What if they can read something in your eyes? You can tell a lot from a person’s eyes, like the secrets of their heart, or so I believe. Eyes can lie too, everybody knows that, but not mine. I don’t think I have the brains to hide anything from anybody, I always get caught. And I have secrets. I feel like getting a retina scanner for my bedroom. Access denied, Mam. I’ve asked them to give me a flat. Like they have so many flats and houses. They’re always evicting someone. My Dad does evictions like Terminator Three For Tenants In Arrears. He is a Property Addict. He can’t stop buying houses because the Housing Market Crashed and Everything Is SO Cheap. It’s like a hobby, it’s disgusting, and we keep reading about people who don’t have homes to go to. We even debated The Housing Crisis in Religion class. My Mam Never Tires of Telling Me our religion teacher is a commie, which is ironic when you come to think of it, and she says nobody would have houses if it wasn’t for people like Dad. And I think maybe my Dad is causing it. Like single-handedly causing the shortage because he owns like everything almost. My Dad says nothing, he just goes to the solicitors and comes home with another three-bed semi in a desirable area. He has the property gene bad. I heard someone on the radio talking about it. It goes back to the Great Famine apparently, but I don’t know why my Dad got it because he was never hungry a day in his life.
You just have to look at him to know that.
Like my Dad has baby bellies where he should have love handles.
My Mam says I’m useless and I know she’s right but in school I get A1 in everything, I hardly even need to look at a book, I remember everything, absolutely everything I read. My English teacher says I remind him of a story by some South American writer, I can’t pronounce the name never mind spell it, about someone who was able to remember every single thing he ever saw or heard or smelled idk I’m not that bad. Ask me to recite Macbeth which we are studying and I can do all the voices up to Act Three where we stopped before Christmas, I can do poetry until it’s Coming Out My Ears, poetry is easy. My Mam says poetry is useless which is another reason I might kill her. She’s only the boss’s PA but she acts like she runs Computing Solutions herself. I don’t even know what they make in there, some kind of software, maybe a game for mobiles, or parts of a game idk like what’s so great about that? There must be a billion software companies in the world, most of them probably have retina scanners too. I couldn’t care less. I am For History and I’m For Poetry. I’m against Technology.
She comes home with a takeaway from KFC.
I don’t eat that shit.
I said I would cook some boil-in-the-bag rice and do a stir fry with whatever was in the fridge but she said no cooking two dinners, I should eat what’s put in front of me. So like I didn’t eat.
So now I’m anorexic.
You’re going to die, she goes, you’re going to die a horrible awful way, anorexia is a terrible way to go. You’ll turn into a stick and every bone in your body will hurt.
This went on all through dinner. I ate four chips. They disgust me. They are not even potato but some potato simulacrum, like a virtual potato, a Playstation Potato. When you eat it you don’t feel like you’ve eaten except for the salt.
My Dad said that Ballyshane was for sale. They were selling the house with a couple of acres and the farm separately. That took the heat off me. My Dad has wanted to buy Ballyshane House as long as I can remember. He even got me to do a project on it for History once. He said: The local company of The Irish Volunteers was formed up there, Captain Corry was head and tail of it, and the Black and Tans raided it so often, I remember my own father telling me about the Crossley tenders going up full of men with rifles and Glengarry caps. Right Dad. Dad and History don’t go together. I am staring at him with my mouth open. But I should have known. He knows the history of houses all right.
Holly and me say politics is just coloured stickers now. We don’t have big causes to fight for like The Freedom of Ireland or Revenge For Skibbereen. We have a Blue Party, a Green Party and a Pink Party. My Dad is Blue Party. Instead of elections people should just be asked what’s their favourite colour. And they should wear coloured shirts or track-suits or something. And my Dad is in well with the blues and the greens because property. Blues and Greens are for Property, Pink is for The Working Man except it turns out they’re for property too lol just not saying. Like the motto for this country should be The Builders Will Save Us. I don’t know what the actual motto is if we have one idk.