12 June 2014

Review: Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington

Karen Harrington's Sure Signs of Crazy is one of those books I want everyone to read. Although geared to a middle grade or young teen audience, there are many levels to the story of Sarah Nelson, and readers of all ages will find something to relate to and love.

I didn't know until I finished Sure Signs of Crazy that it is actually a follow-up novel to Harrington's first book, Janeology. Let me assure you that you that Sure Signs of Crazy works brilliantly as a standalone story.

Here are my thoughts in a bullet review.

  • The setup. Everything changes for Sarah Nelson the summer she turns 12. Sarah has always divided her life in half: the public part, in which she is a friend, neighbor, and daughter and the private part, in which she is an often lonely girl who hides the truths of her family. Ten years ago, Sarah's mother, now institutionalized, killed Sarah's twin brother and almost killed her too. Sarah's father, a college professor, has since tried to find solace with his friend Jim Beam. Whenever people find out who they are and who Sarah's mother is, father and daughter must move to a new town or neighborhood to escape the stares, gossip, and media.
  • What happens. This is the first summer that Sarah has been allowed to stay at home instead of being sent to her grandparents. Under the watchful eye of her neighbors, Sarah experiences a number of other firsts, including her first real crush, her first period, and her first funeral. On the tenth anniversary of the day she almost died, Sarah is horrified to see that her mother's case is once again in the news. Will Sarah and her father start over in another town or will they find the strength to merge their public and private selves and face the future together?
  • Thoughts, themes, genre. Sure Signs of Crazy is a multilayered coming-of-age story with vivid, well-developed characters. The narrative is told from Sarah's point of view, and her thoughts and actions seem believable for a 12-year-old who has had to shoulder adult burdens. The major themes are mental illness, alcoholism, families, young love, old love, privacy, individuality, and public versus private selves. This would be a good book club choice for readers of all ages but would especially be great for a mother/daughter (or similar combo) readalong.
  • Extras. Sarah loves words and writes down her favorites in her secret diary. It was fun to see which words she looked up and incorporated into her vocabulary. I loved that she listened to her teacher and took his summer writing assignment to heart. He told his students to write letters to a fictional character, and Sarah picked Atticus Finch. Her letters are so true and revealing.
  • The audiobook. The unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 6 hr, 37 min) was read by Cassandra Morris, who was absolutely wonderful as 12-year-old Sarah. Morris's voice sounds young and she managed to infuse her narration with the perfect hint of adolescent drama. Although I'm confident I would have liked Sure Signs of Crazy in print, Morris brought the character of Sarah alive and kept my attention throughout the novel.
Published by Hachette Book Group / Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780316210584
Source: Review (print & audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


rhapsodyinbooks 6/12/14, 7:28 AM  

This sounds good. I had to think a minute about the friend Jim Beam. LOL (It took me forever to realize the song Black Velvet was about drinking....)

bermudaonion 6/12/14, 9:30 AM  

I read this in print and thought it was terrific as well.

Karen Harrington 6/12/14, 9:50 AM  

Thank you so much for your thoughtful review! Very much appreciated.

Beth Hoffman 6/12/14, 10:27 AM  

This one is high on my list to read this summer. Loved your review!

Meg @ write meg! 6/12/14, 11:17 AM  

Sounds like an interesting read! Every now and then, I love grabbing a middle grade book just to break up the monotony of fiction. I'll have to look for the audio.

Daryl 6/12/14, 2:39 PM  

adding it to the list, thanks!

Mystica 6/12/14, 10:10 PM  

I do so like the sound of this one. Making a note of it.

Vicki 6/13/14, 2:26 AM  

Sounds good, and I think I'd enjoy the audio version more than the print. I'm always looking for good narrators!

Anonymous,  6/13/14, 11:36 AM  

I really liked Janeology, and so now I have to read this one!

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