Linda Vigen Phillips is the author of Crazy, which tells the story of a teenage girl coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness.
More about Crazy
Young Adult novel-in-verse
Laura is a typical fifteen-year-old growing up in the 1960s, navigating her way through classes, friendships, and even a new romance. But she’s carrying around a secret: her mother is suffering from a mental illness.No one in Laura’s family will talk about her mother’s past hospitalizations or increasingly erratic behavior, and Laura is confused and frightened. Laura finds some solace in art, but when her mother, also an artist, suffers a breakdown, Laura fears that she will follow in her mother’s footsteps. Left without a refuge, can she find the courage to face what scares her most?
Eloquent and compelling, this powerful novel-in-verse tackles complex themes in a way that will have readers rooting for Laura to find the courage to get the answers she needs.
How can reading Crazy be good for your mental health?
Top YA Classroom Library Picks
A reading by the author
Awards and Recognitions
Junior Library Guild Selection 2014
“Combining poetic form with a compelling narrative, CRAZY achieves a story of truth and authenticity, and, often, beauty.”
– Patti Gauch, former vice president and editor-at-large of Philomel Books.
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“CRAZY is an absorbing, tender and often heartbreaking look at the toll mental illness takes on one family in the 1960s. The best books will leave you better and more compassionate for reading them and this is one of them. I loved it!”
– Karen Harrington, Author of SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY and COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS
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“[T]he gorgeous and powerful language and verse structure moved me… Such a rich reading experience!”
– Louise Galveston, Author of BY THE GRACE OF TODD
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“To my mother, whose fault it never was, and to my sister, my soul mate in survival,” reads the dedication to Phillip’s compelling debut novel that is loosely based on the author’s experiences growing up around bipolar disorder. It’s 1963 and 15-year-old Laura has always been told that her mother suffers from nervous breakdowns. So while other mothers are baking cookies for the PTA fundraiser and helping their daughters sew dresses for home economics class, Laura’s mother spends the day sitting in a rocking chair with a vacant stare. No one in Laura’s family, particularly her father, will discuss her mother’s frightening behavior. There’s a palpable tension in Laura’s house as everyone tiptoes around her mother, waiting for her to snap. The teen never feels at ease and so she naturally comes to hate her mother, even hate her life. Laura pushes away her passion for art and her best friend, for fear she will end up just like her mom. It isn’t until the protagonist finally seeks support that she sees light in the darkness of her mother’s mental illness. Told in first-person free verse, Crazy is a beautifully written and emotionally impactful novel about growing up around bipolar disorder in a time period when even doctors didn’t truly understand the ramifications of such a disease. Laura’s shame about her family and her guilt for hating her mother for something she cannot control are heartrending. Phillips’s poetry coupled with her personal experiences truly make this a poignant read. It should be in the hands of anyone – teen and adult – who has ever felt powerless at the hands of mental illness.
– Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ. From the August 2014 edition of School Library Journal.
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It is the 1960s and Laura is fifteen. She is smart and a talented artist, but doesn’t see herself as part of the in crowd. That’s why she is surprised when very cool Dennis Martin shows an interest. Her best friend warns Laura he is trouble, but the trouble Laura faces is much worse. Her mother, also a talented artist, has problems no one else can know about; mental illness is something that was kept secret. It’s such a secret that Laura can’t even talk to her father or sister about it. When her mother takes up painting again at Laura’s suggestion and proceeds to have a complete breakdown, it pushes Laura to believe she is headed in the same direction.
“The sun spreads across the valley
like butter on warm toast,
taking the chill
off the air between us.”
Linda Vigen Phillips has written a compelling and completely believable story of a young girl’s fight against terrible unknowns in her life. The story is told in first person and is pitch-perfect for the Laura’s time and age. But more astonishing is that the story is told entirely in verse. This is a book that is marketed as a young adult novel, but should reach a much wider audience. It will speak to many, many readers.
Reviewed by Rosi Hollinbeck for the San Francisco Book Review
From Booklist: “Phillips’ accessibly written chronicle will resonate with teens who understand the desire to protect themselves from their families’ inner truths.”
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From Kirkus: “CRAZY is worth a read for the text’s vivid link between emotions and fine art.”
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From the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books: “Laura’s story is one that will resonate widely with contemporary readers as they seek avenues of support through their own struggles to remain sensitive to mothers who sometimes disappear, and almost always to some degree disappoint.”