What parents need to know
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.
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.
Families can talk 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?