Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Crazy by Han Nolan

Published September 13, 2010.

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. (from netgalley.com)

After coming off of A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler, walking into another book with an exceptionally similar plot garnered a particular set of high expectations. Unfortunately Crazy did not meet them and I ended up not finishing this one.

As I said, the plotlines of this and A Blue So Dark are really similar: a teen living alone with a mentally unstable parent while being their sole caretaker and trying to balance their own lives at the same time. Both are relative loners and both try to pass off their parents' illness as if it's something they can take care of. But where A Blue So Dark pulls you into the MC's feelings and emotions, makes you live them right along side the character, Crazy pushes you away because, well, there are already a lot of voices in the MC's head and there really isn't any room for you.

There is a disconnect between the reader and the characters because of the lack of intensity on the part of the MC. Instead of showing what's going on, we get the kid's life dictated to us by the talking heads in his head. Frankly I found it grating that the guy created his own sitcom and expected us to feel what he was feeling based entirely on the tellings of several different voices throughout the story. Really I am shown nothing and told everything about Jason and his father. All of the flashbacks are not relived with intense feeling from Jason but "witty" asides from the cast of characters in his head. Am I supposed to feel bad that his father tried to bury him in the backyard because the rest of the characters take it as a joke. And their voices are a hell of a lot louder than Jason's. And I get it's a coping mechanism but I think maybe it was a little too good because it pushed me away from the severity and realism of what was going on.

I felt more for the secondary characters that Jason has those school psych meetings with. Their problems aren't tempered by the voices in Jason's head because they know nothing about those kids. So there's finally peace. Those characters are allowed to come through and be themselves. I can actually see them. Jason? Not so much. He's hidden too far behind his headful of talking heads. It's kind of hard to keep reading a story where I just can't connect to the main character. At least for me, anyway.

Maybe if you can appreciate the type of quirky going on in this book you'd like it but it was put up against some pretty stiff competition. And not intentionally. Crazy just didn't elicit the same emotions for me. I didn't feel much for Jason and I had a hard time trying to look around of veil of voices talking at me the entire time. When I was finally able to, all I saw were the secondary characters. Not Jason. Personally, if you want a story about a teen having to handle a mentally ill parent, read A Blue So Dark. If you insist on reading this one, read it first, and then pick up A Blue So Dark for comparison. But don't read A Blue So Dark first because it will set the bar far too high and Crazy won't come anywhere near it.

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