Thursday, March 4, 2010

Book Review of The Crazy School by Cornelia Read

The Crazy School

After an irregular childhood and traumatic personal event, Madeline Dare accepts a post at Santangelo Academy, a boarding school for disturbed teenagers. The school is notoriously expensive and experimental and set in gorgeous grounds in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. Everyone on campus, teachers and students alike, must submit to the founder's bizarre therapeutic treatments and regimen.

Madeline responds to the demands and requirements with humor, cynicism, and good sense. While this doesn't endear her to everyone, it does make her a sympathetic and teacher and an interesting lead character.

When sudden violence erupts on campus, Madeline finds herself right in the middle of it. And as she tries to make sense of what happened and how to protect herself and her students, we get drawn into the mysteries and secrets going on in The Crazy School.

The Crazy School gives us the quirky, cynical Madeline Dare and her impressions as a new teacher in the dangerous and unusual Santangelo Academy. As a crisis emerges at Santangelo Academy, the story turns into a mystery thriller as Madeline and her students try to discover the truth behind the mysterious deaths. The Crazy School is accessible, engrossing and fun.

ISBN-10: 044619820X - Paperback $13.99
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (February 12, 2010), 352 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Cornelia Read knows old-school WASP culture firsthand, having been born into the tenth (and last) generation of her mother's family to live on Oyster Bay's Centre Island. She was subsequently raised near Big Sur by divorced hippie-renegade parents. Her childhood mentors included Sufis, surfers, single moms, Black Panthers, Ansel Adams, draft dodgers, striking farmworkers, and Henry Miller's toughest ping-pong rival.

At fifteen, Read returned east, attending boarding school and college on full scholarship. While in New York, she did time as a debutante at the Junior Assemblies, worming her way back into the Social Register following her expulsion when a regrettable tantrum on the part of her mother's boyfriend's wife landed them all on "Page Six" of the New York Post.

Today, her Bostonian Great-Grandmother Fabyan's Society of Mayflower Descendants membership parchment is proudly displayed at the back of Read's tiny linen closet in Berkeley, California. She continues to rebel against familial tradition by staying married to a lovely sane man who is gainfully employed. They have twin daughters, the younger of whom has severe autism. Learn more at Cornelia Read's website at

Would you like your own copy? Sign up for the giveaway - ending March 21, 2010!

Reading Group Guide:

1. Maddie is the only Santangelo Academy teacher who lives off campus. How does this affect her views of what is “normal”?

2. Wiesner tells Maddie she is “too whacked to maintain appropriate boundaries” and has issues with authority. Do you agree? Does anyone at Santangelo maintain “appropriate” boundaries?

3. Maddie claims she hates Mindy because she is so shallow. What does this assessment reveal about Maddie herself? How does the generally negative nature of Maddie’s worldview affect the outcome of this particular narrative?

4. Maddie wants to believe that Santangelo can “fix” her. What is broken in her life?

5. The school uses a lot of phrases such as “firing yourself ” and “doing a turn-in.” Many groups use language to create a shared sense of identity. When can this be beneficial, and when can this be dangerous?

6. What are the author’s views on therapy, as expressed by Maddie? Do you agree with her?

7. Why does Maddie stay on as a teacher at Santangelo? Is it only about the paycheck for her?

8. While he never appears in the novel, Maddie’s father is discussed twice during the course of the story. What impact do you think his mental illness has had on her development and on her issues with “authority”?

9. What might be different about this novel if Dean had a steady job? What do you think of his attitude about drug testing—is he standing up for individual rights, or should he put down the bong and get over himself already?

10. Could Maddie have been a more effective advocate for her students if she’d played by the Santangelo rules? What would this have meant for Fay and Mooney, specifically? Should she have “done a turn-in” with regard to their secret?

11. What impact has the advent of psychotherapeutic drugs such as Prozac had on the public perception of “talk therapy”?

12. Has the influence of such psychiatric authorities as Freud and Jung been diminished or enhanced by advances in our understanding of neurochemistry over the last two decades? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

13. How do you think Maddie will respond when she hears about the events of the final chapter? Did what happened change your perception of Wiesner and Sitzman?

14. Is the final word of the book, uttered by Sitzman, significant? Does its use here tie in with the discussion of campus prohibitions against it in chapter one? How would the novel be impacted if there were no profanity used by any of its characters?

Thank you so much to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity and sponsoring the giveaway!

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