In the Company of Crazies
  • In the Company of Crazies
  • In the Company of Crazies

In the Company of Crazies

4.6 3
by Nora Raleigh Baskin, Henry P. Raleigh

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Thirteen-year-old Mia Singer thought that she had it all under control. Sure, her grades were slipping a little bit (well, really, more than a little), and she couldn't explain her occasional compulsion to shoplift. The sudden death of a classmate affects Mia in a way she can't quite define, but then she goes one step too far. Her parents place her in an

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Thirteen-year-old Mia Singer thought that she had it all under control. Sure, her grades were slipping a little bit (well, really, more than a little), and she couldn't explain her occasional compulsion to shoplift. The sudden death of a classmate affects Mia in a way she can't quite define, but then she goes one step too far. Her parents place her in an "alternative" boarding school. Away from her parents and surrounded by trees, space, and students whose problems she can't completely comprehend, Mia has no choice but to learn about herself.

With insight and sympathy, Nora Raleigh Baskin focuses on the universal feeling of being a misfit, showing that sometimes the path home is as unexpected as it is challenging.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Based on the same premise as Girl, Interrupted, but aimed at a younger audience, Baskin's (What Every Girl [Except Me] Knows) novel follows the experiences of Mia Singer after she is enrolled at a boarding school for emotionally disturbed teens. Mia bears the dubious distinction of being the first female student at Mountain Laurel School, and finds herself surrounded by "crazies." In a first-person narrative, she gives her impressions of fellow boarders, including gentle-giant John, who is autistic; Drew, who stares at her from his window at night and sensitive Billy. Mia's commentary about school is interspersed with reflections about her own life before and after her shoplifting sprees, her grades started to slip and the death of a volleyball teammate. The novel leaves many questions unanswered. There are no epiphanies revealing why Mia's life suddenly went downhill and what she needs to do to get back on track. Nonetheless, readers will sense that by the time she leaves Mountain Laurel, Mia has gained a better understanding of herself and her world and is prepared to face new challenges. More than the situations that led to Mia's lapse and recovery, readers will remember the distinctly drawn, vibrantly colored characters making cameo appearances throughout the story. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Mia has gotten herself into so much trouble in middle school that her parents make the difficult decision to send her to an alternative school. She is the first girl to be admitted to Mountain Laurel and so she is alone amidst a number of troubled boys. Mountain Laurel is a rural farm and Mia is not about to stay. But the school is run—ruled—by a strict authoritarian, Gretchen, whose family owned the farm. Gretchen always seems to anticipate Mia's plans to escape and so gradually Mia can do nothing but give in. All of the students are required to keep a journal and we are reading Mia's. Mia makes friends with Drew, a nervous, frail young boy who Mia sees staring out of his window late in the night until one night he falls out of the window. In the mayhem that follows the incident, Mia breaks into Gretchen's office and there finds information on all the boys, which helps her make sense of the antics she has witnessed. Through the story we also learn of Mia's emotional turmoil and the trauma that led her into the downward spiral that sent her to Mountain Laurel. Mia is a typical tough kid and the novel gives insight into the events and circumstances that cause teens to act out. Ultimately it is self-knowledge and self-awareness that redeem Mia and allow her to return home. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2006, HarperCollins, 176p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Janis Flint-Ferguson
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-The sudden death of a classmate affects 13-year-old Mia Singer in ways even she doesn't understand. She was an excellent student, but now her grades have dropped, she skips school and stops seeing friends, and she is caught shoplifting. When she calls the attendance secretary and explains that Mia Singer is absent because she is dead, her parents send her to Mountain Laurel, an alternative boarding school housed in an old country farmhouse. Here she is the only girl amid a half dozen boys with issues ranging from ADHD to depression, oppositional defiant disorder, and autism. Her teacher asks her to keep a journal; the novel consists of Mia's written and drawn observations. At first she feels that she, too, belongs there, but when she sneaks into the school's office to check her files and finds no diagnosis, she decides to take charge of her own life, defy craziness, and be happy. Baskin nicely portrays Mia's complicated relationship with her mother, who lives vicariously through her daughter. Going home for Thanksgiving, Mia decides not to return to Mountain Laurel and her mother agrees to let her make her own mistakes. The changes that come about seem somewhat abrupt, and the ending is too neatly tied together. However, Mia is a candid, sensitive, and keenly observant narrator. A mildly engaging story of a girl's growing independence as she transitions from childhood to adolescence.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Mia Singer (13) is having a bad year. Her grades are plummeting; her social life is practically nonexistent; she is experimenting with some serious shoplifting and skips school regularly. When the accidental death of a classmate prompts her to make a call to the school to announce her own death, she "agrees" to a mutual decision with her therapist, parents and school administrators and enrolls in an alternative boarding school. Mia quickly learns the only schooling here is the keeping of a journal and the dodging of classmates' strange and erratic behavior. Her month-long stay provides an unexpected opportunity for her to reflect on her own behavior. When Mom picks her up for a weekend visit, they reconcile and terminate Mia's alternative experience immediately. Her introduction to a world of different kids with serious challenges prompts a certain reality check about her own fortunate home and school life. But the source of her troubled behavior, a discontent with parental expectations, remains tenuous. (Fiction. 12-14)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

In the Company of Crazies

By Nora Baskin

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Nora Baskin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060596074

Chapter One

Mountain Laurel, the middle of nowhere and nothing.
One of the teachers here, Karen, says I am supposed to write in this journal every day. That's about all they have to do here and half of them don't even do it.
What do I have to say? And if I did, why would I want someone to read it?
I have nothing to say.
All I have to say is--

Going to Mountain Laurel was my choice. That's what they told me. They. The collective they. My therapist. My school counselor. The entire middle-school guidance department. My dad. And my mom, who was the one who found this place to begin with. The only one who didn't want me to go was my little sister, Cecily. But Cecily was eight and what did she know?

I agreed to go.

They needed to hear that.

They needed to believe that it had been my choice. But by the time everyone came to the conclusion that boarding school would be the best solution for all of us, it was the middle of October and most places had, at least, a year waiting list. And exactly whose fault that was became just another matter for a huge debate. A brawl, really. Whose fault was it that we had waited so long, hadn't read the signs, didn't seek professional help until it wasnearly too late? It made for some real good fights between my mom and dad. Some real doozies. But by that time, I was used to them fighting about me. Fighting about my grades (dropping by the minute), my friends (or lack thereof), shoplifting (getting caught shoplifting), my skipping school (a lot).

No, by this time I was practically a war veteran. They could have paraded me through the streets on Memorial Day.

Their fighting didn't even faze me at all.

But Cecily hated it. She would hide under her bed because that's where our dog, Morgan, went as soon as he sensed someone's voice getting too loud, too angry. And that's where he stayed until it got quiet again. Dogs are funny like that. They can just feel it coming. Cecily was just following Morgan.

"Everybody knows these schools fill up way in advance." (My mother.)

"Everybody? Who is everybody? Who is everybody?" (My father.) "And what's your goddamn point anyway? I really can't see your point."

But Mountain Laurel hadn't filled up. They were accepting girls for the first time and the changeover had created a spot.

An opening.

I needed an opening. (And Cecily needed to come out from under her bed.) I needed an out. I needed an escape. So I went.

So I guess it was my decision after all.

Mountain Laurel was a farm, or at least it must have been at one time. When my dad first drove into the place, I thought we had made a mistake. There was a huge barn. There was a little beach and a pond, and behind that was a hill and pine trees all lined up like they had been planted that way. The house looked like an old farmhouse, white with reddish brown shutters on almost all the windows and a front porch piled with split firewood. A big white husky dog sat watching us. There were those Adirondack chairs scattered on the front lawn, lots of them in a semicircle, like people had just been sitting there a minute ago, talking.

The whole place was laid out like a mini-colonial village. Like an old-fashioned Amish community. Like something from another time. My dad and I both sat in the car for a while, just looking out, wondering if we were in the right place.

"The sign said Mountain Laurel," I said to my dad.

"It did, didn't it?" he said, nodding. But neither one of us moved.

Mountain Laurel
When I don't feel like writing, which is all the time, Karen says I can just draw. I can doodle something instead.
Which is what I'm going to do.

It wasn't just the shoplifting that got me sent away, but funny it would turn out to be the Mountain Laurel School for Alternative Education. Because when my mother searched Mountain Laurel on the Internet and found out that it had once been categorized as a school for "emotionally disturbed adolescent boys" she was a little hesitant, to put it mildly.

Well, forget for a minute that I wasn't a boy--I was an adolescent, I'm often accused of being too emotional and my parents are completely disturbed. So put it all together and you have a perfect match. But did it really matter at that point anyway?

"I don't know," my mother said. "It was a boys' school."

"So what?" I remember telling my mother.

I remember telling her that but not thinking about it. It was almost an instinct by then. I had developed a bunch of phrases, all more or less guaranteed to end any conversation.

I don't care.

Shut up.

You're annoying me.

So what?

Eventually, my mother convinced herself that it was their old website and the school wasn't like that anymore. After all, they were accepting girls now. They had changed their name. Their brochure claimed superior education (she latched on to that one big-time) and they had an immediate opening. Besides, like I said, it wasn't just the shoplifting. I think ultimately it was that phone message I left on the attendance secretary's answering machine.

I used to be real good at deepening my voice just a bit and very seriously saying something like, "Mia Singer, grade seven, will be absent today. She has an orthodontist appointment."

Or a sore throat.

Or a family emergency.

But that day, for some reason, I said something completely different. I said, "Mia Singer won't be able to come to school today because she's dead."

The shoplifting was just the icing on the cake.

"It doesn't look like a school," my dad said.


Excerpted from In the Company of Crazies by Nora Baskin Copyright © 2006 by Nora Baskin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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