Crazy by Linda Vigen Phillips was one of my favorite teen books of 2014, and there are several facets of this book that make it unique. It’s a poem-format novel, it’s historical fiction, and it tackles family problems in general and mental illness specifically. Laura is a great protagonist, and readers will feel for her as she tries to deal with the normal hurdles of her teenage life while wondering if the mental illness in her family will prove to be the biggest hurdle of all.
The year is 1963. My name is Laura, I’m 15 years old, and I’m an artist like my mother.
My world is filled with plenty of good things, like my friends, Mrs. Grant my art teacher, Dennis Martin with his deep blue eyes and his gorgeous smile, American Bandstand on TV, and my Beach Boys records.
Unfortunately, my world is filled with lousy things, too. Like how whenever I get embarrassed I get these big red splotches all over my neck and I can’t stop sweating. Like the way I thought that Dennis Martin was going to ask me to take a ride in his new car, except he didn’t and now my friends think I’m a lost cause. Like the way I think I might be going crazy.
I told you that I’m an artist like my mother. That’s only partially true … or maybe it’s not true at all. You see, my mother used to be a painter back when she was my age. But then she stopped. I still look at her paintings on the walls sometimes, and I wonder why she doesn’t do it anymore. I wonder if the part of her brain that made the paintings is the same part that doesn’t always work the right way … and which seems to be getting worse. I wonder if creating those paintings was a symptom of what was going wrong inside her head. And I wonder if me being an artist like my mother means that I’ll go crazy, too.