In the Company of Craziesby Nora Raleigh Baskin, Henry P. Raleigh
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… See more details below
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.
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
- Age Range:
- 10 - 14 Years
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In the Company of Crazies
By Nora Baskin
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Nora Baskin
All right reserved.
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.
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.
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.
You're annoying me.
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.
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