Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington Book Review

Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 20, 2013

There are a lot of trouble words in Sarah Nelson's life. Like love, mom, and crazy. When Sarah was two-years-old her mother tried to drown her and her twin brother. Her brother died. Now Sarah worries about whether or not she will become crazy one day. After all, she talks to a plant, keeps two diaries, likes to stand on a stump in the middle of her yard, and her mother is definitely nuts. As Sarah begins to grow up, experiencing her first real crush, she finds an inner strength and the answer to questions she has been desperately searching for.

Despite an interesting premise, this is one of those "quiet" books. Completely character driven, there is only a meandering plot with a lot of introspection, which was in keeping with the character but also felt like a running monologue sometimes. Sarah's feelings, her concern about growing up to be crazy like her mom is very understandable and I thought it was a real shame that with all the psychologists she saw, not one told her that crazy isn't catching. Not once is postpartum depression mentioned.

What I did love was that this felt like a glimpse into the life of someone who has been through something traumatic like this. Sarah's father was also put on trial (even though he was not there at the time), but was acquitted. Years later the news story continues to come up though and anytime a woman kills her children, this tiny family has to re-live these terrible events. They move over and over again whenever word gets out that they are in town, because there are people who still believe her father played some part in it and got away with murder. The press badger them whenever they try to visit the grave of her twin brother. These elements made the story so sad and painted such a vivid portrait of grieving families who are never really allowed to move past there trauma. It also made the book solidly a young adult book. Although the language and age of the character read like an intermediate level book, I wouldn't give this to any kid in elementary school unless I knew they were dealing with some of these exact same issues. I mean, Sarah is not only into boys but she has a complete crush on a nineteen-year-old. Also noteworthy, Sarah refers to "To Kill a Mockingbird" often and I think young readers would be much better served if they already had a working knowledge of either the book or movie or both.

On the downside, there is a lot going on in this book. If the crazy storyline wasn't enough, then there is the crush, and her babysitter's bad boyfriend, their next door neighbor, her obsession with words, her dad's alcoholism, Sarah becoming a woman, her letters for school, and the constant word definitions that have almost become trope in middle grade books. Sarah is such a lonely and sad child and I was left with the feeling that despite finding a bit of her voice, this isn't going to change. There is still so much healing needed for this family and they are going to both need some serious counseling. Without it, I can see Sarah running off with some older guy at sixteen, still writing in her journals and despite saying she wouldn't, discovering the same drink her father did.