Young Adult Literature
My Name is Sus5an Smith. The 5 is Silent
An excerpt from the citation: "'When Uncle Willy left, I was Susan
Smith. Now, ten years later, I am Sus5an Smith. The 5 is silent.
It's a silence that drives certain members of my family up the wall,
but I figure if you're going to have the last name of Smith, then your
first name should be more exotic than susan or Sue or even Sioux.'
Thus we meet one of the most delightful characters in young adult
literature. Her life-long attachment to Uncle Willy, known only
briefly as her Aunt Marianne's husband, is a mystery to one and all.
To Sus5an, Uncle Willy represents exotic places and a kindred spirit
in the arts. He appreciated the 'way the elm trees arch over our
street, and the way the hollyhocks grown thick next to the garage. He
appreciated the junebugs flitting about the yellow light of the porch.
Willy say it. He saw the magic of it.' And didn't he send her a
silver necklace on her eighth birthday?
"Springville, Utah, is hardly the place for a true
(seventeen-year-old) artist to pursue art, in spite of the fact that
it is called 'Art City.' Every time Sus5an paints a member of her
family, they seem disappointed. Even angry. This year, for the
student art show, Sus5an is painting an entire family portrait,
including Aunt Marianne's fiance Heber and the long gone Uncle Willy.
But she keeps the bedroom door locked because she doesn't want to hear
'questions like, "Why are you putting that S.O.B. Willy Gerard into a
family portrait?" And [she] especially [doesn't] want to hear, "Why
are Grandma and Grandpa Schroeder's faces distorted on one side?"'
But, of course, at the show those are the very questions. The prize
she won only embarrasses her family.
"And that is why, after graduation, she goes to Boston to live with
Aunt Libby, unmarried, un-Springville and able to introduce her to a
world where real art exists. Sus5an quickly befriends the eccentric
old woman, Grace, in the apartment next door, finds a job in a movie
theater with Savatore as her boss, and meets a promising young artist,
Thomas Roods. She also realizes her heart's desire and finds Willy.
"We laugh and cry with Sus5an as she learns to see Willy, herself, and
even boring old Springville through more adult eyes. At the end of a
very long summer, Susan tells her family she is going back to Boston
to pursue her art education, this time with her vision a little more
"Louis Plummer never intrudes into the novel, never preaches. Susan
and her family are LDS but not obtrusively so. Her dad's store is
closed on Sunday and he goes to church with them and naps in the
afternoon. Susan values human beings as individuals, evidenced by her
friendship with Grace and her unflagging if ill-placed trust in Willy.
Her values and her family's are ones the Mormon audience will identify
with but not cringe over. This delightful book won first place in the
Utah Arts Council contest for young adult fiction and is listed among
the School Library Journal's December 1991 list of 'Best Books 1991.'
We are proud to add our award to the list of recognitions given to My
Name is Sus5an Smith. The 5 is Silent.