Copyright 2010
Grand Central Publishing
352 pages
ISBN: 978-0446198202

From the Publisher: 

Dare, a 26-year-old former debutante, takes a job in the fall of 1989 as a history teacher at Santangelo Academy, an unorthodox therapeutic boarding school in western Massachusetts dominated by its authoritarian cape-wearing headmaster, David Santangelo. When a student, Mooney LeChance, reveals that his girlfriend, Fay Perry, is pregnant, Dare keeps Mooney’s secret while the couple is confined to the Farm, a punishment dorm in the woods. The book’s first half focuses on character—the woefully misguided souls who teach at Santangelo, the students in all their dysfunctional glory—but the action picks up when Mooney and Fay die from drinking poisoned punch after a birthday party at the Farm, and Dare is arrested for her role in preparing the fatal beverage. While some characters, like the social-climbing parents who drop in between vacations, verge on stereotype, Read graphically depicts the depressing underside of a supposedly elite private school.

MY REVIEW:

THE CRAZY SCHOOL is an interesting amateur sleuth tale that reads like two novels in one. The first part of the book provides insight into those at the Santangelo Academy as if the story line is an exposé character study of the negative elements of a private school. Somewhere towards the middle of the novel, the plot veers into a murder mystery. Although distinct, the parts ultimately blend together as Dare dares to prove her innocence while exposing A FIELD OF DARKNESS that engulfs the school.

Cornelia Read holds her own as a storyteller. She takes hold of a reader at the get-go and doesn’t let go until the last word.
I loved the book and would certainly recommend  to everybody, especially the murdeer mystery lovers and who wants to experience a new (to me) author 🙂

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 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? Giveaway:

Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Books, I have 3 copies of The Crazy School by Cornelia Read to giveaway to 3 of my readers.
To Enter:

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Giveaway ends on February 22, 2010 . Winner will be selected by random.org and notified by email and will have 24 hours to reply back before a new winner is selected. Please leave your email if it is not attached to your profile so I can contact you if you win. Good luck!
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