One of the recommended books at the end of the Educator’s Guide that Eerdmans put together for Crazy is Deb Caletti’s Wild Roses. I’ve just gotten around to reading it, and I can appreciate why Eerdmans considers it a companion read to Crazy.
Cassie is a 17-year-old who prefers amateur astronomy to the passions of music. Her musician mother marries a world-famous violinist five days after divorcing Cassie’s father. Dino Cavalli, high-strung, arrogant and increasingly paranoid, is working frantically on new work for an upcoming concert. At the same time, he takes on a poor student, Ian, openly berating him while obsessed with helping him to get into a world-class music school. Ian has doubts about pursuing the intense demands of performance music, but he is under pressure to help out his widowed mother with the family debts.
Cassie’s relationship with Dino has never been stellar, and when she and Ian fall in love, Dino’s rages towards both Cassie and Ian escalate. In the meantime, Cassie’s father, who lives nearby, has discovered that the story Dino has woven about his past is totally fabricated. Cassie’s mother, caught in the middle, hangs on to the hope that Dino will get back on medication after the concert. But far from that, the night of the concert he attacks an innocent man whom he mistakenly thought had been stalking him, and flees the country.
I won’t give away the ending but suffice it to say, it does have a satisfying resolution that surprisingly, doesn’t end in the tragedy that you might expect along the way. Caletti makes observations through Cassie’s eyes throughout the book about famous artists, writers, and musicians, echoing a well-established link between creativity and mental disorders.
As for how Crazy and I can relate? The title itself is taken from one of the last paintings Van Gogh did, titled Wild Roses, and this same artist figures heavily in Laura’s life. Cassie was as intent on hiding Dino’s behavior from the world as Laura was on keeping her mother’s health issues a secret. There was always fear and shame in both protagonists’ lives, and while Cassie did communicate with her mother, she didn’t score as well with Dino or even Ian, the one she loved the most. And in order to survive, both Cassie and Laura developed pursuits that took them away from the family craziness into a world they could control.
I will be presenting two workshops in the next couple of months, based on the theme that “YA books can save lives.” I maintain that reading books that deal with mental illness head on CAN be conversation starters and at best, the lifeline for a teen who is living through a nightmare at home thinking there is no one out there who understands.