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Crazy by A. Reed

Reed, Amy. Crazy. New York: Simon Pulse, 2013. Print.

Isabel and Connor hit it off at camp, where they worked as art counsellors for the summer. Now Isabel is back with her dysfunctional family in Seattle, and Connor is living with his idealistic activist single mother on Bainbridge Island. They communicate by email, since Isabel hates the phone, and only occasionally does Connor 'catch' her on chat. Isabel, or “Izzy,” sets the conditions and the scope of their communications, acting as a brash, blunt foil to Connor's more serious discussions. As very different people, they are intrigued with one another, although Connor becomes frustrated when Izzy refuses to respond to his questions that probe the surface below her bright chatter. As the school year progresses, each of them deal with sex, school friendships (or lack of them), and the pressures they feel from their families. But although they cling to one another, Izzy's emails become angrier and more desperate, and her silences become longer when Connor tries to find out what is really going on with her.

Reed uses the form of the epistolary novel, using emails and instant messages to build her characters. This technique allows their characterizations to come through clearly, and also help to convey Izzy's state of mind, alternating between manic and depressed. At times, each character seems a bit too self-aware for her or his age and situation. Although their writing reads authentically as what I might expect of contemporary 18-year-olds, some of their insights seem to be forced; take, for example, Connor's recognition that both he and his mother try to take care of others without taking care of themselves – or each other. Connor is a particularly sensitive and open teenager, but this kind of insight sounds more adult than I think is warranted.

The novel overall deals with issues of young people with bipolar disorder, without making the book seem like a “single-issue” story. Reed has created two distinctive characters who talk about issues without shying away from issues that other authors might avoid; for example, how Isabel and Connor speak frankly about sex is one detail that contributes to a three-dimensional characterization. I would recommend this novel for both its approach to mental health, as well as its memorable protagonists.

Recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Allison Sivak

Allison Sivak is the Public Services Librarian at the University of Alberta Libraries. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Library and Information Studies and Elementary Education, focusing on how the aesthetics of information design influence young people’s trust in the credibility of information content.