Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr Biography » S(usan) L(ynn) Rottman (1970-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

S(usan) L(ynn) Rottman Biography (1970-) - Sidelights

review shadow school novel

S. L. Rottman's first novel, Hero, garnered considerable attention as a moving account of a young man's transformation from a troublemaking outsider to one who has learned to give and receive help from others. The novel "had me laughing out loud on page three and nearly crying several times thereafter," wrote Cynthia L. Blinn in a Voice of Youth Advocates review of the book, published in 1997.


Hero centers on Sean, a fifteen year old who has learned to mistrust all adults based on his experience with his own parents: his alcoholic mother is both physically and emotionally abusive, while his father's presence is known only through a monthly support check. During a week's suspension from school for fighting, Sean breaks curfew for a fourth time and is sentenced to a week of community service on World War II veteran Dave Hassler's farm. There, as Mr. Hassler helps Sean express and work through his feelings of abandonment and neglect, the teen learns that hard work has its rewards in increased self-confidence. "Sean is a likable loner—tough as nails—with a survivor's sense of humor," remarked a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, adding that Rottman's "message is a powerful one for adolescents." While some reviewers contended that Rottman avoids an easy ending, Sean comes to terms with a school bully as well as a trying family situation; "Through Sean [Rottman] gives readers a convincing and difficult protagonist and a fresh perspective on what it means to be a hero," observed Carolyn Lehman in School Library Journal.

Stetson focuses on a seventeen-year-old boy who has lived with his alcoholic father since his mother left years ago and now works at a salvage yard, where he has befriended his Vietnam veteran boss. Stetson wants to be the first in his family to graduate from high school, but some misguided pranks bring him dangerously close to suspension. His personal plans change, however, when a fourteen-year-old girl arrives at his home and proves to be his sister, Kayla. Critics applauded Rottman's unforced portrayal of social issues in Stetson, as well as the author's portrayal of realistic relationships throughout the novel. A Kirkus reviewer wrote that "in this novel of broken dreams turned to new possibilities, Rottman delivers a believable story with characters that ring true." Delia Fritz, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, noted that while "the writing can be repetitive, . . . this may be a consequence of the narrator's humdrum attitude toward life," and concluded that readers will most likely be "cheering him on to the end." Paula Rohrlick, reviewing Stetson in Kliatt, also found the title character to be a worthy protagonist. She described him as a "clever, talented, sensitive teen," and declared Stetson "a character teens will admire and embrace."

Considered by several reviewers to be an equally strong protagonist, Shadow got his nickname when he was small because he was always trailing right behind his older brother, Daniel. As Rottman's novel Shadow of a Doubt opens, Shadow is fifteen, and Daniel has been gone for seven years, having left as a young teen and devastating Shadow's family in the process. When Daniel now calls home out of the blue with the news that he has been arrested for a murder he did not commit, Shadow's parents must wrestle with the emotional, social, and legal issues, leaving their younger son feeling abandoned. Luckily, Shadow turns to friends on the school debate team to help him through a trying time.

In Kliatt, Rohrlick commented that Rottman "excels at realistically depicting teens struggling with family issues," and predicted that readers of Shadow of a Doubt "will eagerly turn the pages." A critic for Kirkus Reviews was also impressed with the novel's depiction of family relationships, noting that the story is "thoughtful and forgiving of the large and small weaknesses of parents and children." In Booklist, Shelle Rosenfeld also praised Rottman's portrayal of family dynamics and dubbed the book a "thought-provoking novel" featuring a "three-dimensional, introspective protagonist." School Library Journal reviewer Lynn Evarts remarked that Shadow is evidence of Rottman's ability to create consistently believable male characters and added that "the unusual plot gives the book its strength and appeal, and the realistic ending adds to its credibility and message."

Set in a ski town, Slalom is the story of Sandro, who has been reared by his single mother, Tiffany. As a young woman, Tiffany had a brief affair with Alessandro, an Italian race skier, and became pregnant. Because Alessandro had moved on by the time Tiffany discovered she was with child, she decided to move to the ski town where they met, sure the skier would one day return. When that day comes, Sandro—also a talented skier at age seventeen—is not the romantic his mother is. As he struggles to deal with the emotions surrounding the return of his father, Sandro also deals with the demands of being part of his school's competitive ski team, as well as with a new romance. Reviewing Slalom in Kliatt, Rohrlick concluded that "Rottman's skill at describing teenagers struggling with family issues . . . will keep readers turning the pages." Diane Foote, writing in Booklist, praised the excitement generated by the ski theme, predicting that Rottman's "jam-packed storyline will keep the interest of kids who prefer to read by the fire."

Rottman once told Something about the Author: "The first story I remember writing (that I liked) was when I was in the sixth grade. I continued to write for my own enjoyment through high school, and received a creative writing scholarship from Colorado State University for a short story. I never dreamed I would sell my first novel before I turned thirty. . . . Although I was born in Georgia and have lived in Oklahoma, I consider Colorado my true home."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 2003, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Shadow of a Doubt, p. 593; September 1, 2004, Diane Foote, review of Slalom, p. 110.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2002, review of Stetson, p. 264; October 1, 2003, review of Shadow of a Doubt, p. 1230; September 15, 2004, review of Slalom, p. 919.

Kliatt, March, 2002, Paula Rohrlick, review of Stetson, p. 12; November, 2003, Paula Rohrlick, review of Shadow of a Doubt, p. 10; September, 2004, Paula Rohrlick, review of Slalom, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, August 18, 1997, review of Hero, p. 93.

School Library Journal, December, 1997, review of Hero, p. 130; April, 2002, Delia Fritz, review of Stetson, p. 156; January, 2004, Lynn Evarts, review of Shadow of a Doubt, p. 134.

Voice of Youth Advocate, December, 1997, Cynthia L. Blinn, review of Hero, p. 320.*

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