Friday, October 15, 2010

Book Review: Crazy by Han Nolan


Fifteen-year-old Jason has fallen upon bad times—his mother has died and his father has succumbed to mental illness. As he tries to hold his crazy father and their crumbling home together, Jason relies on a host of imaginary friends for guidance as he stumbles along trying not to draw attention to his father’s deteriorating condition. Both heartbreaking and funny, CRAZY lives up to the intense and compelling characters Han Nolan is praised for. As Jason himself teeters on the edge of insanity, Nolan uncovers the clever coping system he develops for himself and throws him a lifeline in the guise of friendship.


The Short Version:
A wrenching look at what is likely a real life situation for more teens than we realize, Crazy throws into the spotlight the life of Jason. He is determined and strong, but still just a teenage boy with very limited resources. Almost a year after his mother’s death, Jason is struggling to keep the secret of his father’s declining mental state a secret. Desolate in his living situation, but starting to act out and becoming more impulsive than he realizes, Jason inadvertently sets into motion a string of events that drastically change his life. With a wide cast of characters that all touch Jason’s life in different ways, and some gutting scenes that hold nothing back in portrayal, Crazy is a very well handled, very memorable book and a must read.

The Extended Version:
With a unique mental state of his own, a bold determination not often seen, and a subtle helplessness about him, Jason makes for a very interesting protagonist. Weary of making friends, Jason’s thought processes are divided up into voices, so to speak. He imagines his life as a TV show, and different members of the audience take different parts of his mind. This holds a strong presence throughout the book, particularly because of how closely it could mimic his father’s mental state. Jason goes through a striking amount of development, both in how he accepts help and how he sees the world around him. Things he’s kept hidden and repressed finally come to light, leaving both him and the reader with a new outlook.

The three friends Jason makes through a lunchtime therapy session with the school psychologist are a ragtag group that wouldn’t necessarily be close if it wasn’t for the common ground of needing help. Their reasons for being there are different, but they still have that connection. They form a beautiful bond, and the kinship that grows between them really carries throughout the book. A side plot of an unexpected romance and overall resolution with all of these characters also adds another great element overall.

Split between screenwriting style narration with the characters in Jason’s head and his own personal narrative, Crazy gives the reader plenty to dive into. The different styles of writing still hold an overall fluidity and there is both a smoothness and abruptness that comprises the bulk of the prose. There are several scenes in this book that are downright heartbreaking to read, tearing the reader apart as they watch Jason struggle with his father, and struggle to keep things hidden. His devotion to his father overwhelms even his own problems, creating something both hard and understandable.

This is a new twist on the coming of age story, adding in a situation that will go straight to the reader’s heart. Heavy on the crazy aspect and with a character that fights against any kind of help, Crazy is most definitely a contemporary book to read.

Source: ARC received for review from publisher
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books (September 13, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0152051090
ISBN-13: 978-0152051099


  1. Yet another book I've heard nothing about. You get your hands on some of the best books! I got chills reading this and I'm sure it will pull at my heartstrings... you know how sensitive I am!
    Just as expected... another great review!

  2. This sounds so good. Thanks for sharing this review--you really expose people to lesser-known books. :)

  3. I keep seeing this book at the store, but never read a review on it. Thank you! I'm going to pick this one up next time :)

  4. What a terrific and thoughtful review. I love the idea behind the kinship that develops through the therapy group, it reminds me Alt Ed another book that uses group therapy to deal with teen problems. But the unique idea of Jason dealing with the voices in his head along with his father's mental illness is as you said heart wrenching.