Crazy: Compelling and Hopeful

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Crazy by Han Nolan

Jason is trying his best to cope.  His mother died of a sudden stroke, leaving him caring for his mentally-ill father.  With no money coming in, Jason struggles to feed them both and heat the house.  There is no time for caring for the house itself or even for himself.  Jason has no friends and is spending a lot of time with the imaginary friends in his head.  He can’t tell anyone about them though, because he’s afraid that they are proof that he is crazy like his father.  He is also very frightened that if anyone finds out his father’s condition, they will put him away and Jason will have no one.  After another run-in with a teacher, Jason is required to spend his lunches with the school’s counselor and a small group of students.  Jason finds himself slowly opening up to them, and even allowing them to help him when his father disappears one wintery night.  But his fears may not have been unjustified as Jason’s carefully constructed world falls apart around him.  Written with great humor and warmth, this is a compelling story about a boy struggling under the tremendous weight of mental illness.

Nolan writes in punchy sentences that carry so much more emotion than one might expect.  Jason’s imaginary friends add a large amount of humor to the book, despite the fact that they may be a symptom of mental illness.  Readers will related to Jason as a character, understand his motivations immediately.  He is a likeable and believable protagonist who has survived amazingly well.  The three friends he makes are also very interesting characters, a girl dealing with her mother dying, a boy trying to handle his parent’s brutal divorce, and another boy dealing with a parent’s addiction.  Each gives readers a glimpse of their own situation.  Nolan nicely equates mental illness with other issues, exposing what can be considered a shameful secret alongside those that are more accepted in our society.

I don’t want to give much of the story away, but Nolan deals very well with the aid that Jason receives both at school and outside of school.  This book offers a view of the system that is often lacking: it is a system with rules but that can also work to remove a teen from an impossible situation into a much improved one.  She offers hope here.  Both a hope for true friends and a hope for family.

Highly recommended, this is a book of despair and hope.  Pair this with another great read about parental mental illness: A Blue So Dark.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from NetGalley digital galley.  Read on the iPad.

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