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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Reviewer: Another Outstanding Novel

Long review for CRAZY ABOUT YOU, but this author isn't complaining!

Randy Attwood, author of a favorite novel of mine (BLOW UP THE ROSES) has written another outstanding novel. Written in first person narrative, CRAZY ABOUT YOU allows the reader to be privy to how the protagonist in this novel (a 16-year-old teenager named Brad Adams) deals with the tumultuous hand of cards he has been dealt in his lifetime and what choices he is forced to make in this deeply meaningful novel.

The reader can't help but love the main character (Brad) because not only is he coming of age in this novel but because of his circumstances he must grow up real fast -- and does! The myriad of Brad's experiences gives him great "character" as an individual and that is a very fine thing and hard to come by. Much of our world is sadly absent of people with good "character." I wouldn't exactly put this novel in a "coming-of-age" category because it is deeply charged with many adult themes but I can't completely exclude it as that either.

The setting takes place, for the most part, on the grounds of an insane asylum. That is enough to draw in most any suspenseful thriller reader ... myself included! The novel is made more real with the fact that the insane asylum is actually a real asylum/state hospital that opened in 1914 and is still open today -- located in Kansas. Brad's father is employed as a dentist for the Larned Insane Asylum in the 1960s and, as such, he resides on the grounds of the campus with his son (Brad) and his daughter (Sally). But there are many more "settings" whereby Brad (main character) finds himself -- in high school, in love, at the mercy of a madman in the asylum, as a witness and so much more .

The author does a brilliant job picking each and every situation and describes in detail, as well as from Brad's first-person view, somewhat insurmountable experiences and how Brad has to act with each and every incredibly unique situation. Funny situations, very serious situations and life or death situations. Dull moments are few and far between in this psychological adventure always leading the reader to want to know what is next and what choices Brad will make -- as a boy and as a man. He is a young man with broad shoulders made necessary by many unexpected situations and emergencies in this novel.

When Brad's father has to leave for a dental convention for a week Brad is left home on the grounds of the State Hospital with his wild and somewhat-slutty sister and whom he is trying to look after while his father is away. Their mother left the family a while ago and Brad finds himself forced into the protective role of keeping an eye on his sister (only a year older than himself) and her roaming ways. He must play mother, father and brother at the same time for the week that his father is gone. Which is somewhat of a small task compared to the circumstances he falls into in just one week. Brad also works in the cafeteria of the State Hospital and sees and experiences more than any other teenager could possibly imagine. He takes on the burdens of getting to know some of the younger patients and falls into the role of caring for them too. He listens to them in a way others cannot. Especially one patient in particular. That "one" being a teenage girl named Suzanne whom Brad thinks he has fallen in love with. He knows that she is not crazy but, instead, a molestation victim. Like with his sister, Brad will go to the ends of the earth to try and protect Suzanne also. Mostly from herself.

If that is not enough (and I have already left out a lot) Brad also has much UP FRONT AND PERSONAL knowledge of -- and experiences with -- many of the adult loonies that know Larned State Hospital only as their home. For Brad, the hospital is his home away from home not only to work at the cafeteria there but to get to know and befriend the staff and just how nuts some of THEM are too. A certain percentage of the staff do not fall under the diagnosis of "crazy" but they are far cries from persons giving back to society. Of course there are exceptions and one of the nurses on staff is his father's girlfriend. A kind woman who Brad rather admires and who later helps Brad during his toughest of times. Although, in this novel, there really is no escape for "tough times" for Brad.

To add insult to injury to Brad's extraordinary circumstances and burdens while his father is away for a week ... an elderly lady in the town is brutally murdered and her daughter is missing to complicate things further. The elder lady had been a good presence in Brad's life over the years before her gruesome demise leaving him grief stricken as well as wondering who could possibly have done such a terrible thing. With Brad's broad and wide knowledge of many of the people in the community and on the grounds of The Hospital he is able to assist the authorities in finding the guilty party. Especially when a couple of her body parts are found in the cafeteria food.

Brad is at that awkward stage between being a teenage boy and a young man. Because of the myriad of circumstances Brad is presented with in CRAZY ABOUT YOU and, in most cases being the victim of circumstance, the reader can relate to him more on an adult level. He has more responsibilities than most adults do, he has a great capacity beyond his years for compassion, empathy, positive morality, and wisdom. Yet the fact remains he is still a teenager dealing with the pressures of high school and those raging hormones. A girl from his school becomes smitten with him and she is far from being a prude and let's Brad know it. She is absolutely crazy about him which is a great turn on for Brad. Yet his heart strings are pulled all the while back to the girl in the asylum who is there for the wrong reasons and whom he cares for deeply. What is a guy to do? The author pens the sexuality of a teenage boy into the storyline when he could have just left it out. Had the author left out that sexuality "Brad" would have been some unbelievable teenage superhero in this novel. Having said that, however, Brad does become a hero in many many ways in this novel. Spiritual ways, secular ways, tangible ways , etc. and all expertly crafted by the author so that it is not too over-the-top (the entire storyline).

CRAZY ABOUT YOU is a tale of a young man's physical journey as well as an internal one. By being written in first person narrative the reader FEELS and intimately knows all of Brad's struggles. Brad literally has to fight for his life in this novel when he gets thrown into the cell of a gorilla-sized madman in the asylum while at the same time experiencing an internal discovery of himself and what choices need to be made. TOUGH CHOICES.

The reader is given a first-hand account of Brad's journey through the realism of the institutionalized, the burdens of circumstance, and asking and understanding the human psyche from cradle to grave. The book also weaves together many of the states of affairs and the signs and times many eras and societies go through (or crumble down to). For instance, whole generations suffering from lenient child rearing. As well as the questions we all ask ourselves from time to time including Brad. Like what "being IN love is." Do we create our own cosmos or our own little worlds? Brad himself ponders that and he answers that very question for himself and much more. He understands, at such a tender age, the great lessons that life teaches you. And, throughout this novel, ANY READER just may look at life a little differently when several pages in this novel devotes theories and opinions on human psychology.

This novel is more compelling, more gripping and convincing page after page. Give it a try! The storyline will be crazy FOR YOU!

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