Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Crazy School

Cornelia Read, author of the critically acclaimed mystery, A Field of Darkness, certainly doesn't suffer with the sophomore jinx with her second novel, The Crazy School. She brings back Madeline Dare, for another intriguing story with outstanding character development.

Maddie and her husband, Dean, finally got out of Syracuse, a city Maddie hated, and moved to the Berkshires in 1989. However, when Dean's job prospects fell through, Maddie accepted a job teaching at the prestigious Santangelo Academy, a school for disturbed, well-to-do teenagers. It isn't long before Maddie realizes that Dr. David Santangelo and his faculty may be more disturbed than the students.

The therapeutic boarding school has unusual methods of handling students in crisis. They pass out meds such as lithium and Thorazine with meals. Sometimes the students must sit in a circle, with the teachers in the middle, while everyone waits for one student to admit their faults. The teachers themselves have self-analysis sessions in which they criticize each other.

Maddie had hoped that the school would help her deal with her own issues. At twenty-six, she's not much older than the students, and she has to face the fact that she's already killed a man. She needs the job, and she's found a friend at the school. Most of all, she doesn't want to abandon the kids. When two students ask for help because one in pregnant, Maddie doesn't know how to help. And, suddenly, Maddie needs help herself when supposed suicides turn to a murder case, and Maddie is tied to the case.

Once again, Cornelia Read has created a deep, thoughtful story with riveting characters. The reader discovers more about Maddie, and gets to know her husband, Dean, a little better. The students, despite their issues with drugs, violence, or depression, are the true stars of the book. Maddie is the focal point that the story pivots around. The students, such as Sitzman and Wiesner, are stronger people, in their own way, than many of the adults in the book. Cornelia Read asks, who are the crazy ones in "The Crazy School"?

Cornelia Read's website is

The Crazy School by Cornelia Read. Grand Central Publishing, ©2008. ISBN 978-0-446-58259-9 (hardcover), 328p.


Cornelia Read said...

Lesa, thank you so much for reviewing CRAZY SCHOOL, and I'm looking forward to seeing you in Scottsdale tomorrow night!

Lesa said...

It's not an easy book to read, Cornelia, but well worth the effort. I hated to see what was happening to the students, which made it tough. I'm looking forward to seeing you tomorrow night as well!

Anonymous said...

I tried to read this book, but I couldn't get past the first few pages because of the continuous use of cursing. I wanted to like the book, but a book full of foul language is not something I enjoy, so I returned it to the library the next day.

Lesa said...

That's OK. Cornelia's own mother complained to her about the cursing in the book. I don't think it's the right book for you.

Anonymous said...

I was a student at the school. only now do others get a chill down thier backs after reading about the way we were treated. what was done to all of us. staff and student alike. I'm greatful that someone found the words to tell part of our tale. for far to long I have been unable to relate even a part of how it was to be imprisoned thier. I hope you tell the rest of the story, the real story of life in that place.

Lesa said...

There were people in the audience the night Cornelia spoke that thought she'd made it up. She told them there were students showing up at her appearances, thanking her for telling about it. They said their parents never believed them. I'm sorry.