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NEAL SHUSTERMAN

BIOGRAPHY I BOOKS I PRESENTATIONS I BOOK ORDERING

An only child, Neal Shusterman attended Brooklyn's P.S. 207, and he dreamed of one day moving to California where his favorite television shows were created. In school, he wrote an essay that was among those chosen for a school district contest and an epic about killer sandworms and sea creatures. He became known as the kid who *wrote stuff.* His junior and senior years in high school were spent at the American School of Mexico City, and in 1985, he graduated from the University of California at Irvine, majoring in Psychology and Theatre. While in college he also worked on writing in an independent study program and wrote a humorous column for the school paper, which was picked up for a short time by a features syndicate. In college, Shusterman met Elaine Jones, with whom he had a 13-year marriage.

As a summer camp counselor during his college years, Shusterman became the camp storyteller. One of his stories was The Eyes of Kid Midas, which many rewrites later became a book that was named an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Shusterman believes these storytelling sessions taught him the importance of rhythm.

Shusterman's first few published books were nonfiction works-for-hire. His first book as a novelist was The Shadow Club, which explored the mob psychology of seven junior high *second-best* students who take revenge on the *unbeatables* with increasingly destructive pranks. It became an IRA/CBC Children's Choice and won the Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award. The editor who worked on it, Stephanie Owens-Lurie, has continued to edit most of Shusterman's books.

Based on a true story, What Daddy Did is about a teenager struggling with his feelings as he comes to terms with the father who killed his mother. Named an IRA/CBC Children's Choice, an IRA/CBC Young Adult Choice, and an ABA Pick of the Lists, it was the Oklahoma Sequoyah Award winner. It was also cited as an Outstanding Book of the Year by the Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People, a distinction which was also given to The Dark Side of Nowhere. A science fiction thriller about an alien plot to take over the earth and a teenage alien who, raised as a human, decides to choose the side of humanity, this book also won the Hal Clements Science Fiction Golden Duck Award.

Downsiders is another tale that skirts the boundaries between science fiction and reality as Shusterman uses suspense and satire to explore how two civilizations, those who live underground (the *downsiders*) and those who live aboveground (the *topsiders*) reconcile their many differences. Downsiders won the Utah Beehive award and was nominated for a number of other state awards.

In 2005, The Schwa Was Here, a thoughtful and humorous story about self-identity and the need we share to have our existence recognized by others, won the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Fiction. A long time fan of the X-Files TV show, Shusterman (in collaboration with writers Eric Elfman, with whom he also wrote Tesla's Attic, the winner of the 2015 CLAU Beehive Book Award, and Michelle Knowlden) has written X-Files novelizations under the pseudonym Easton Royce.

At least five of Shusterman's books have been ALA Best Books for Young Adults: The Dark Side of Nowhere, What Daddy Did, Downsiders and Unwind and Challenger Deep. At least five have been ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers: Mindquakes, Downsiders, the first two books in the Dark Fusion series, Dread Locks and Red Rider's Hood, and Unwind, the first book in the Unwind Dystology, which is a New York Times bestseller and lated to become a movie in the near future. The Dark Fusion”series reflects Shusterman's fascination for fairy tales and their connection to myth. Dread Locks, for example, has echoes of both Goldilocks and Medusa. Everlost, an imaginative novel about a ghostly and menacing limbo a group of deceased children inhabit, was among IRA's 2008 Young Adult Choices.

In 2015, he won the National Book Award for Young People for Challenger Deep, which also won a number of other awards, including the Golden Kite Award for Fiction and a a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor. A brilliant novel about mental illness, this book was illustrated by Neal's son, Brendan Shusterman, whose own struggles with mental illness was what brought Neal to write what School Library Journal called a "deep dive into the mind of a schizophrenic.." and what Publishers Weekly called a "powerful collaboration..."

Neal divides his time between writing books, film and television scripts, directing educational short films, and going around the country speaking to students, teachers, librarians, and other groups. He lives in southern California and is the father of two sons and two daughters.