Oct 31, 2013

Review: Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington

I read Karen Harrington's first novel, JANEOLOGY a few years ago and really liked it and SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY is the follow-up to that book.  However, it is a great stand alone novel.  Its now ten years after Jane Nelson's mental collapse when she drowned her two-year old son, Simon and nearly drowned his twin sister, Sarah. Its now ten years later and Sarah lives with her father, Tom, in Garland, Texas and her mother is in a mental institution.

Life hasn't been easy for the Nelson's with all of the publicity surrounding not only Jane's trial but also Tom's trial.for not doing enough to protect his children, even though he was at work when it happened.  Though Tom is a loving parent, he still struggles with what his wife did and his way of dealing with it is to bury it, never talk about it and try to drink it away. Every once in a while, people find out who they are and all the publicity starts all over again, so they move to a place where no one knows them. All their moving around has been hard on young Sarah and it takes a toll on her relationship with her father. His refusal to talk about it and Sarah's need to get answers drives a wedge between them and makes Sarah feel like she has no one in her life she can talk to. So when her teacher offers a voluntary summer assignment to write letters to a favorite fictional character, Sarah turns to her favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Atticus Finch. Through her letters to Atticus, she divulges her secret thoughts, wishes and plans not to mention her fear of being crazy like her mother.

Aside from her letters to Atticus Finch, Sarah is dreading the summer because her dad always makes her go to Houston to stay with her grandparents. But she has big plans and she's sure they won't happen in Houston.  If only she could convince her dad she's old enough to stay with him in Garland she could have the summer of her life. She may even be able to show him she's old enough to know more about the mother she barely remembers.

My Thoughts:

SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY has a young protagonist that reaches in and grabs your heart. Sarah Nelson is also the narrator and Harrington does a fantastic job of writing this story from her twelve-year old perspective. In my opinion, she nailed it. She may be young and unsure of herself, but Sarah is bright, articulate and she loves words, which makes her even more endearing to me.

As a young adult novel, this is a home run but Sarah's story is appealing to mature readers as well. Her family has suffered a tragedy and since Sarah feels like she can't talk to anybody about it, she writes letters to someone she trusts, even if that person isn't real. Her conversations with Atticus have a child's honesty in them. I loved reading those letters.

Another part of the story I loved was Sarah's friendship with elderly next door neighbor, Mrs. Dupree. That was an unexpected nugget and it even reminded me of a relationship I shared with an older neighbor after moving to Florida and not knowing anyone. That was one of my favorite parts of the book. I also loved another neighbor, Finn. What a great character! Even though he is nineteen and obviously much older than Sarah, he took the time to realize that she was a very intelligent girl. He was kind and he made time for her.

There is so much about this book that I loved. It was engaging, had great characters and the story was believable. The issues Sarah deals with are so current: peer pressure, single parenthood, alcoholism - all dealt with very well in this book. Sarah also has a great sense of humor and the way she explained things made me laugh sometimes.  I think this is a great book for young readers.  In fact, I'm giving a copy to my friend's 13-yr old daughter, who also enjoys reading, with the hope that she will share it with her friends.

It doesn't even matter if you haven't read JANEOLOGY, although I highly recommend it! This is a great second novel for Karen Harrington. It proves to me that there is a definite place for her in the literary world and I'm excited to see what's next from her.  I'd like to thank Karen for sending me an advance copy of this terrific book. I enjoyed it immensely.

By the way, you can read my review of JANEOLOGY here and check out Karen's website at www.karenharringtonbooks.com.

Author: Karen Harrington
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published:: August 20, 2013
Genre: YA
Length: 304 pp
Source: Author, Karen Harrington
Recommend? Absolutely Yes!!


  1. I haven't read Janeology yet but I loved this book! Sarah is just wonderful!

  2. I read Janeology a couple of years ago, and I'm eager to read this follow-up story. I have it on Sparky, so soon I will be delving into it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts; this little girl sounds like someone I want to get to know.

  3. Lisa,

    I'm so pleased you enjoyed Sarah's story. Thank you for posting your generous review! Have a great weekend.


  4. one day I will read Janeology. This looks good. I always love the older, wiser, caring people in young lives. It rings true to me.


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