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Crazy House

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Crazy House Book Poster Image
Violent dystopian thriller doesn't make a lot of sense.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Short, punchy chapters spur teens to keep reading. The dystopian plot points out how authoritarian regimes try to control their citizens.

Positive Messages

Learning to face your fears is an important part of growing up. Jumping to conclusions about people can be dangerous.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Becca and Cassie are twins, but they are temperamentally very different. Becca is a rebel and risk-taker, quick to anger. Cassie is careful and contemplative. Both girls undergo great changes in personality at Crazy House.


Some very violent scenes, especially those that take place in "the ring," where children beat, kick, and punch each other senseless. One girl is beaten so badly she has a miscarriage (she's already pregnant when the book starts). Noses are broken, knees are shattered, and kids are kicked into unconsciousness. Ultimately, losers are publicly executed by injection.


Becca and Cassie each find a boy they're attracted to, but there's little time for romance beyond a couple of passionate clinches.


The level of swearing matches the high level of violence. Many variations of "s--t" and "a--hole" plus "hell and "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Crazy House is a violent thriller set in a dystopian world, written by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet. It features many violent scenes of gladiatorial combat between young children and teens, as well as execution by lethal injection. Swearing is frequent, with variants of "s--t" and "a--hole," as well as "hell" and "damn." Becca and Cassie each has a romantic interest, but there's little time for romance beyond a couple of passionate embraces.

User Reviews

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  • Kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byRead.dance December 6, 2017

My favorite!

This is one of my all time favorite books. It gets into the story right away and has constant action. There is some violence used and graphic scenes, but you s... Continue reading

What's the story?

CRAZY HOUSE opens with the mysterious disappearance of Becca Greenfield, one of the town troublemakers. The only person openly concerned for her safety is her twin sister Cassie, who is told to drop her investigation into Becca's whereabouts. Becca has been taken to Crazy House, a hellish prison for children, where the inmates fight bone-breaking duels, and everyone resides on Death Row. Eventually Cassie and Becca are pitted against each other in a desperate struggle for survival.

Is it any good?

Gladiator-style beatdowns between children and teens are extremely disturbing, and this dystopian thriller relies on them too frequently. James Patterson and his co-author deliver short, punchy chapters that will appeal to reluctant readers, but there's a whiff of exploitation in this tale of twin sisters forced to fight each other. It makes Crazy House seem like a Hunger Games wannabe. There's a big buildup to a climactic reversal, but so far it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

The book ends with the strong implication that there will be continuing volumes, but there's no guarantee that all readers will want to follow along to the next bloody installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Crazy House and how it depicts a dystopian society. Why are stories about near-future authoritarianism so popular?

  • How is violence used in Crazy House? Is there a purpose behind it? Does that purpose make sense?

  • Do governments ever lie to their citizens? What can people do to learn the truth about political issues?

Book details

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