CYBILS REVIEW: Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington


Love can be a trouble word for some people. Crazy is also a trouble word.

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.


Sure Signs of Crazy revolves around twelve-year-old, Sarah, who is dealing with a couple of problems. First, she's afraid her summer is going to be terribly boring, especially if she has to go stay with her grandparents. Second, she's afraid of the Family History project she might have to do next year. The first problem is pretty typical of a tween, but her second problem revolves around a family scandal that never goes away.  Her father keeps moving them around whenever their secret becomes known and it always does.  Her father also drinks too much and won't tell her things that she wants to know. Can she find the courage to go after what she wants and survive the consequences? That's the big question.

Strengths: Sarah is a terrific character whose been handed some difficult circumstances and forced to deal with them without a lot of help.  The relationships in the book are the strongest part of the story, both the good parts and the bad parts. 

Weaknesses: How many middle graders have read To Kill a Mockingbird and will know who Atticus Finch is? I personally enjoyed that part of the story, but I'm not sure how many middle graders will. The story can be read without knowing that but will make more sense if the reader knows the original story. The other thing that concerned me more however was Sarah's crush on a 19-year-old young man and her desire to kiss him.  She and her friend have a 'bet' going about who will get French-kissed first which definitely made me nervous. Things work out okay, Sarah doesn't get a kiss and her crush doesn't return her feelings, but the whole story line made me a bit nervous. While I understand her interest in kissing, a lot of kids are, but there is no one here to tell Sarah about the possible consequences.


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