Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you my thoughts about a terrific new middle grade novel.
I should know.
You've never met anyone exactly like twelve-year-old Sarah Nelson. While most of her friends obsess over Harry Potter, she spends her time writing letters to Atticus Finch. She collects trouble words in her diary. Her best friend is a plant. And she's never known her mother, who left when Sarah was two.
Since then, Sarah and her dad have moved from one small Texas town to another, and not one has felt like home.
Everything changes when Sarah launches an investigation into her family's Big Secret. She makes unexpected new friends and has her first real crush, and instead of a "typical boring Sarah Nelson summer," this one might just turn out to be extraordinary. -- Little Brown
It's been over four years since I reviewed JANEOLOGY by Karen Harrington. That's been a long time and I've read many book since then; however, I remembering enjoying this novel about Jane Nelson, a mother who tried to kill her children. I appreciated getting an inside look into the mother's mind as well as the affects the crime had on her husband.
Well... the Nelson family is back, ten years later, in SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY. This time, however, the book is geared towards the middle grade crowd; and the story is told through the eyes of Sarah, the 12 year old surviving daughter. As much as I enjoyed JANEOLOGY, I found that SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY was even better!
In many ways, SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY is a coming-of-age story. The novel takes place during the summer of Sarah's twelfth year, a time when girls are going through so many changes. It's obvious early on that Sarah is unlike the other girls, not just because her mother is serving time in a mental hospital for murder. She's also obsessed with words, writes Atticus Finch letters on a regular basis, and has a plant for her best friend. Sarah and her alcoholic father have also moved around... a lot, trying to keep once step ahead of curious people and the media.
Needless to say, her father wasn't exactly in touch with Sarah's needs as a tween, so she turns to her 20 year old neighbor Charlotte for help in the "girl department." She learns about guys and relationships, and she even has her first crush on Charlotte's younger brother. Not only does he share her love of words, but he truly listens to her and accepts her for who she is. It was through this friendship that Sarah was able to start dealing with being her mother's daughter and not always having to hide from this fact.
Sarah was such a terrific character and I absolutely loved seeing her find her way throughout the course of this novel. There's no doubt that there were many times when my heart broke for Sarah, but I also loved her intelligence and her strength. She truly was a remarkable character and one that will stay in my thoughts for some time.
Since the novel was written in Sarah's words, I felt as if I truly got to know her and appreciate her insights into life. Despite having to deal with some pretty difficult situations, Sarah still managed to make me laugh. On the other hand, I also felt like crying for her a few times. For example, Sarah feared that her mother's insanity (and/or her father's alcoholism) was hereditary. She analyzed all of her quirks and, as a result, she spent a lot of time looking for signs of either affliction. I just hated that she had to carry this burden on her shoulders in addition to so many other ones.
SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY would make an outstanding mother/daughter book club selection. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find any discussion questions; however, I think most readers will have plenty of ideas to discuss. Some of the themes you might want to explore include mental illness, addiction, first loves, fears, insecurities, guilt, determination, growing up, changes, fresh starts, family dynamics, and love.
I adored SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY and I highly recommend it to fans of coming-of-age stories!
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!