Crazy

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
Crazy Book Poster Image
Edgy story of bipolar teen and the boy who loves her.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers get a sense of what it means to be bipolar by watching Izzy cycle up into mania and then down into depression. They'll learn something about treatment and also that the illness runs in families.

Positive Messages

The characters may drink, swear, and do other impulsive things, but at its heart, this is the story of a girl learning to accept her mental illness and a boy standing by her side through it all.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Connor remains a true friend to Izzy, eventually telling his therapist mom about his concerns and even alerting Izzy's mother when Izzy is in danger.

Violence

A character sets a fire, and there's a suicide attempt with a pill overdose.

Sex

Connor and Izzy engage in a lot of sexy banter and discuss their sex lives with each other, including Connor's oral sex with a girlfriend who later says she's a lesbian and his kiss with his male best friend. Izzy has a mostly sexual relationship with a man who turns out to be married; she also has sex with strangers and accuses Connor of wanting to have sex with her. 

Language

Lots of "f--k" and other swear words, including "piss" and "crap" and the crude insult "douchebag."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Izzy's brother is a heroin addict who has overdosed and is sent to rehab. Connor and Izzy both drink, and Izzy admits to snorting something during a manic episode.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Crazy features a series of email exchanges between a bipolar teen and a boy she connected with during summer camp. There's swearing ("f--k," "piss," crap") and racy talk as they discuss personal details, including family stuff (Izzy has a gay sister and a brother who's struggling with drug addiction) and their sex lives (Connor kisses a male best friend, and Izzy has random hook-ups with strangers). Throughout Izzy's manic and depressive cycles, Connor tries to be a good friend, eventually involving her family and helping stop her suicide attempt.

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What's the story?

When Izzy and Connor meet as art counselors at a summer camp, they have an instant bond. They email letters back and forth, remembering their good times, sharing their troubled relationships and family dramas, and planning reunions that never quite materialize. Readers will notice Izzy's letters becoming increasing erratic: Sometimes she's manic and reveals doing crazy things (like nearly setting her house on fire), and sometimes she's tired and depressed. Connor wants to get her help by talking to his therapist mom, but he's afraid to violate Izzy's trust.

Is it any good?

Author Amy Reed takes on a difficult task with CRAZY in trying to make a series of letters between two teens come alive for readers. This format zaps some of the energy from the story, and the book ends up feeling overly long. Even so, readers will get a good primer on what it's like to have bipolar disorder -- or to love someone who does. Even as Izzy learns to deal with her diagnosis, she knows that "anything can trigger an episode -- stress, too much caffeine, not enough sleep, lack of a consistent schedule, arguments with loved ones, loss of a pet, a loud noise, too many donuts, clowns, roller skating. Maybe not the last few, but you see what I mean."

Crazy may seem a bit too issue-oriented for some readers, but it could be a good starting place for discussions about mental illness, suicide prevention, and how to help friends in need. Reed has previously written about teens in trouble in her novels Clean (about teens in rehab), and Beautiful, which is about a teen using drugs.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about mental illness. Do you know what it means to be bipolar? This might be a good time to review the signs with your kids and let them know how to get help if they're ever in a situation like Connor and Izzy's.

  • Is it important for teens to have access to gritty stories like Crazy that help them think about the complexities of some people's lives, or are some edgy young adult novels too extreme? 

  • Have you read other YA novels that deal with teen suicide?

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