Today we welcome Linda Vigen Phillips whose book, CRAZY, comes out today from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
Laura is a typical fifteen-year-old growing up in the 1960’s, navigating her way through classes, friendships, and even a new romance. But she’s carrying around a secret: her mother is suffering from a mental illness.
No one in Laura’s family will talk about her mother’s past hospitalizations or increasingly erratic behavior, and Laura is confused and frightened. She finds some solace in art, but when her mother, also an artist, suffers a breakdown, Laura fears that she will follow in her mother’s footsteps. Left without a refuge, can she find the courage to face what scares her most?
Set in the 60s during the time of JFK’s death, CRAZY is a touching story about a teen girl trying to live a normal life while her mother completely unravels before her eyes. Laura’s struggle is summed up beautifully in the following verse from the novel:
How do you keep things normal
in a household where
craziness is as common as
fruitflies in the summer?
YA novels often feature teens who are attempting to avoid turning into their parents. What makes CRAZY special is that it features a teen who knows that turning into her mother may be inevitable. And this terrifies her.
Laura’s plight is heartbreakingly real. This story will haunt you long after you put down the book.
And now for some questions with Linda!
HB: This story is based on your own personal experience. Did that make it easier to write or harder?
LVP: I am about half way through my second book, and I’m having to work a lot harder because that well of memory and personal experience is not there. Even though CRAZY was shaped over more years than you want to hear about, it came rolling out relatively easily, sometimes as if I was replaying an old movie. Of course it is still fiction based on facts, so I did have to do some actual thinking and inventing, but the parts that are closest to the real happenings were the easiest and most exciting to write.
HB: Do you think Laura’s reaction to her mother’s illness would be much different if you set the story in 2014?
LVP: Well, there are definitely resources today that were not available in the sixties, but I am also increasingly amazed at the number of people who still don’t talk about mental illness or quite know how to deal with it in themselves or their loved ones. So I think a teenager today could potentially have reactions similar to Laura’s, but it would, of course, depend on the resources available to her and the nature of her family and social networks.
About Linda Vigen Phillips
Linda Vigen Phillips is a retired teacher living with her husband in North Carolina near her sons and two grandkids. CRAZY, a YA novel written in verse, is her debut book drawn from her own experiences coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness while growing up in Oregon. You can connect with Linda on Twitter and Facebook.
About Holly Bodger