I knew there were other books out there titled Crazy and so did my publisher, Eerdmans. When it came time to solidify the title for my book, the duplication didn’t seem to be an issue. For whatever reason, I didn’t get around to reading Han Nolan’s Crazy until just recently, and I think that worked out for the best, as well.
Nolan is a national book award winner (Dancing on the Edge) and finalist (Send Me Down a Miracle). I think that information might have seemed daunting and intimidating to me early on, but today, when I finished her Crazy, I felt good about some of the parallels in our books. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying my book is national book award material. I’m just saying, I think we may have made some similar points coming at it from totally different points of view, and as far as advocating for better mental health goes, that’s all good.
Nolan’s protagonist, Jason, is a 15-year-old (same as my Laura) who is desperately trying to care for a mentally ill father, after the recent death of his mother. In his isolation from the rest of the world, Jason relies on voices of imagined characters to guide him through the challenges he faces. (To a lesser degree, Laura is haunted by voices in her head, as well). His life is sliding drastically downhill when the school psychologist hooks him up with a lunchtime support group of three other students in various stages of family dysfunction. When Jason’s father goes missing, the three jump in with genuine concern and quickly become Jason’s new and only friends. (Laura has a group of friends with whom she doesn’t confide, but who give her unwitting support).
Jason finds solace and a new strength when he begins to confide in his three new friends. Laura experiences the same thing, surprisingly not with her best friend, but with a persistent and compassionate boy and an artist who becomes a mother-figure.
Shelby, one of the three friends with whom Jason has a mutual attraction, reports Jason’s situation to the authorities who remove him to a foster home. (Laura gets “removed” to her aunt’s house for a period of time).
When insurance dictates that Jason’s father must be released from the hospital for a couple of months before a care-facility can take him, and a judge orders Jason not be involved in his father’s care, Jason reacts. He convinces his caseworker to request a hearing, at which Jason states his case that he can maintain his grades and visit his father daily to assure continuity until permanent care can be arranged. He wins. (Laura goes digging, and doesn’t stop until she has discovered the truth that empowers her to go on with her life.)
Jason is finally able to express his true feelings to his dad, and so does Laura with her mom. In both cases, the exercise proved to be largely lost on the parents, but a means of release and healing for the protagonists.
I loved that both Jason and Laura stayed intact, in spite of the odds against them. I loved that they both had it within themselves to speak out and fight for what they thought was right. I loved that responsible adults recognized their efforts and acknowledged them as credible human beings, NOT crazy offspring of crazy parents.
In a given year, one in four adults experiences mental illness, and approximately 20% of youth ages 13 to 18 experience a severe mental disorder. There is still a stigma and an aura of secrecy attached to these illnesses. Bibliotherapy–the use of books as therapy in the treatment of mental or psychological disorders–can be a lifeline to teens who feel trapped and powerless in the face of mental illness.
I’m currently compiling a list of such books which I will post next week. Readers, I would love to hear about books on this topic that have been meaningful to you.
Hey READERS, I would love to hear from you.
Is your MIND FULL of old thoughts or new?