Madeline Dare has finally escaped rust-belt Syracuse, New York, for the lush Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. After her husband's job offer falls through, Maddie signs on as a teacher at the Santangelo Academy, a boarding school for disturbed teenagers. Behind the academy's ornate gates, she discovers a disturbing realm where students and teachers alike must submit to the founder's bizarre therapeutic regimen. From day one, Maddie feels uneasy about smooth-talking Dr. Santangelo but when she questions his methods, she's appalled to find that her fellow teachers would rather turn on each other than stand up for themselves, much less protect the students in their care. A chilling event confirms Maddie's worst suspicions, then hints at an even darker secret history, one that twines through the academy's very heart. Cut off from the outside world, Maddie must join forces with a small band of the school's most violently rebellious students-kids whose troubled grip on reality may well prove to be her only chance of salvation.
About the Author
Cornelia Read grew up in New York, California, and Hawaii. She describes herself as a reformed debutante who currently lives in Berkeley. This is her second novel. Her website is www.corneliaread.com.
Read an Excerpt
The Crazy School
By Cornelia Read
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2008 Cornelia Read
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHalfway to Christmas, Forchetti stated the obvious: "You can't teach for shit."
The other six kids went quiet, looking from him to me-teen-angst scratching and hair twirling and pencil chewing arrested for once.
He cracked his gum, noise reverberating off the jaundice-yellow cinder block.
It was an ugly room. Demoralizing. I didn't want to be in it, either, only you're not supposed to say that when you're the grown-up.
The trees outside were losing their last Robert Frost touches of burnished brass and copper-sorry leaves ready to drop from maples and elms and whatever the hell else kind of East Coast trees I still didn't know the names of, twelve years after leaving California.
I dragged my eyes back from the window and crossed my arms. "Did you read the damn chapter?"
Forchetti smirked and pincered the spit-warm raisin of Juicy Fruit off his tongue. He held it up, pretending to sight down the damn thing, straight at my forehead.
I stared right back at his narrow face, at those baby features overwhelmed by black eyebrows he hadn't yet grown into. "Did you?"
Without looking down, Forchetti opened his copy of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings at a random page. He dropped the little gum wad inside and mashed the paperback shut against his chair's faux-wood paddle of desk.
"I wouldn't read this piece of shit," he said, "if you dropped to your knees and blew me."
Wiesner hissed, "Shut the fuck up, Foreskin."
Good-looking kid, Wiesner: six-five, white-blond hair slicked back, gray eyes with long dark lashes. He was just back from eight days in county lockup, after holding a teacher and a couple of students hostage with a carving knife so he could call his girlfriend long-distance on the principal's office phone. Now I had him for two out of three classes.
Forchetti dropped his eyes to the carpet.
"She is a shitty teacher," he whined, "and you owe a dollar to the Rape Crisis Fund for saying the F-word, Wiesner."
Which was true. Big-time rule here at the Santangelo Academy, because Dr. David Santangelo felt that "fuck" was a word fundamentally linked to violence against women.
It was, in fact, the only word the students weren't allowed to say. Or the teachers.
Wiesner pulled a crisp five from his pocket. "Four to go, then." He lifted his right hand, waggling the digits in Forchetti's direction.
"Madeline is not a fucking shitty teacher," he said, folding his index finger down on the stressed word. "You, on the other hand, are a fucking"-middle finger-"suckbag fuck"-ring finger- "and if you don't leave her alone, I'm going to fucking"- pinkie- "stomp your skinny ferret ass the next time I catch you alone in the showers."
Wiesner wadded up the money and tossed it at Forchetti's feet. "Be a sweetheart," he said. "Put that in Santangelo's little jar for me."
Forchetti blushed, but he picked the bill up off the floor and put it in his pocket.
I would have told Wiesner to lay off threatening a foot-shorter kid he had fifty pounds on, except Patti Gonzaga started growling, which was what happened the first week, right before she chunked her chair at my head.
The lunch bell went off, thank God. They stampeded into the hallway, all except Wiesner, who just stretched his legs out, still in his seat and grinning.
One last door slammed down the hall.
He ambled over and sat on the edge of my desk. "Penny for your thoughts."
"I think you'll be late for lunch."
"Figured I'd walk you over," he said.
"I still have to do everybody's marks."
We were supposed to rate how each kid behaved, right at the end of class. Forchetti'd racked up three straight weeks of zeroes-winner and still champion.
Wiesner lounged back on an elbow. "I can wait."
I pulled open the top drawer, looking for a pen. "They'll get all pissed if you're not there for the meds."
"You just seem kind of shaky," he said, voice all soothing. "I want to make sure you feel okay."
The drawer was full of crap, souvenirs of my predecessors-paper clips, barrettes, dental floss, half a roll of TUMS, and a screwdriver.
Teachers left this place in a hurry.
Wiesner leaned over, perusing the contents.
I looked up. "Of course there isn't a single fucking pen."
He smiled, extracting a Bic from his jacket.
"Trade you for that screwdriver," he said. "I need to make a phone call."
Wiesner and I angled across the lawn toward the dining hall. I didn't want to get there. I wanted to cut off into the woods and have a smoke, alone, only I couldn't because the other teachers would have smelled it on me and narked.
I shoved a hand deeper into the pocket of my leather jacket, fishing through its torn lining to grip my crumpled pack of Camel straights.
I hadn't even thought about cigarettes since college. Now they were the focus of my existence, along with caffeine. We weren't allowed to have that, either, which didn't stop me from sucking down thick-walled cups of the tepid institutional decaf, hoping in vain they'd missed scrubbing the kick from a bean or two.
The Santangelo Academy air was crisp and fresh after a week of rain, edged with wood smoke and rotting leaves. There was even a sweet breath of cider drifting up from the weed-choked orchard, planted back when this had all been some Bostonian nouveau magnate's country place, before the Civil War.
It was beautiful here in the Berkshires. I'd give it all that much.
"I like that Caged Bird book," said Wiesner.
He was lying. I shouldn't have cared.
"The lady who wrote it," I said, "I knew her brother Bailey. He used to come to our house."
I was going to tell Wiesner about this one time when I was little, maybe 1970, and Bailey saw me cutting dry rot out of a tree trunk in our backyard with a paring knife. He told me he'd bring me a switchblade as a present the next weekend he came down from Berkeley. Said he wanted to make sure I'd be okay "come the revolution," since I was pretty hip for a white kid.
I never got the knife. He never got the revolution.
Wiesner nudged my upper arm with his fist and said, "So, d'you do him, her brother?"
"Chrissake, Wiesner ..."
He grinned down at me. "Can't kid a kidder."
"I was, like, eight years old."
"Sure," he said, laughing now. "Sure you were."
I stopped walking. "Seriously,"
He gave me a pat on the head.
"What the hell kind of thing is that to even say?" I said, batting his hand away. "To anyone, let alone a teacher. I mean, would you pull that shit with Mindy or Gerald or Tim?"
"Do I look like an idiot?"
"So why me?"
"How about because you look good in that little skirt, and you're blonde with green eyes, and you're wearing cowboy boots, and it's a gorgeous day."
I rolled my eyes. Started walking away.
"Are you sure you want to know?" he asked, behind me now.
I sped up.
"Fine with me," he said. "I'd just as soon check out your ass from here."
I turned around.
Wiesner was still smiling
"We're late," I said. "If you want to say something that's not merely about pissing me off, I'll give you ten seconds."
He looked at the ground, a little embarrassed. "I say shit like that to you, Madeline, because I know I can, okay?"
I was touched. "Because you trust me."
"No, because you're too whacked to maintain appropriate boundaries."
He raised his eyes again, but I looked away. At the trees and stuff.
I'd always despised the shrink-sponsored murder of language- all precision and metaphor and beauty boiled away until there was nothing left but carbonized lumps of jargon.
"You have issues around authority," he continued. "I figure that's why you're here."
"That's why you're here, Wiesner. I'm here because it's a job."
He shrugged. "When you're ready to own your shit, you'll know why you're really here. That's what this place does."
"Cha," I said. "'Good for the disease.'"
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"It's from this book," I said. "Magic Mountain."
"Books don't help," he said.
"You'd be surprised," I said, even though I'd never managed to finish reading it myself, back at Sarah Lawrence.
He took my elbow and started us walking. "Can't kid a kidder."
Sometimes you can, Wiesner.
I was here because I'd killed a guy. And I owned the hell out of that.
The fact he'd been trying to kill me at the time hadn't helped me sleep any better since.
Neither had this place.
Excerpted from The Crazy School by Cornelia Read Copyright © 2008 by Cornelia Read. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Cornelia Read has created such a fun interesting character in Madeline Dare. Her voice is really unique and the setting being the 80s add to her personality as well. In this sequel to Field Of Darkness, the only thing that relates to that book is Madeline and her mostly off page husband. That's something that I didn't love here. This book could be almost completely comprehended without any knowledge of the previous book. While that is great for new readers I wanted a little more a connection. Also, this book's crux didn't really come to be until well into the book. It seemed to tread water for quite some time but luckily Madeline is intriguing enough to not make that a terrible thing. Overall, this a really good book but I enjoyed the first book more.
From the first pages of The Crazy School, the reader is picked up and dropped into a world far from what most would consider the norm. The story begins at Santangelo Academy in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. The Academy is modeled after a real life school, that existed from 1978 though 2004, called DeSisto at Stockbridge School. The Protagonist is Madeline Dare, who recently began a teaching job at the school. At a glance the campus may appear pristine, but appearances can be deceiving. One quickly finds that life at this school is very different from a regular educational facility. Teachers are referred to by their first names, cursing is common place, and the majority of students are heavily medicated and suffer from severe mental problems. As the plot builds, more and more is revealed about the estranged founder, David Santangelo, and his bizarre polices. Because the majority of the students at the academy suffer from mental disorders, many of the school¿s activities are centered around so called therapeutic practices. However, few would consider this school to be professionally sound in its techniques. The therapists violate doctor-patient confidentiality. David Santangelo forces all students and teachers to sit in a circle for days at a time, waiting for confessions of wrongdoings. These practices are considered therapeutic. As Madeline begins to see the extent of insanity at this school, she befriends Wiesner, Forchetti, Mooney and Fay, students at the school. Her determination to save them and others from the destructive forces at work at the schools continues to grow. After it becomes clear to Madeline that a terrible tragedy isn¿t what it seems, she pushes harder to get answers, answers that could easily cost her life. The Crazy School will have readers tearing through every page, as they join Madeline in her search for closure, and revenge.
I agree that the kids at the school are exceptionally well drawn. Even though they're "bad" kids, you feel a great deal of empathy for them.My only criticism of this book is that it takes awhile to get going. I stayed with it, and I'd recommend that you do, particularly if you like character driven mysteries. Madeline is an intriguing character; it's easy to understand and relate to her character and want to spend more time with her. I'm looking forward to her next adventure.
Like a lot of protagonists in crime fiction, Madeline Dare is tough as nails on the outside and just shy of marshmallow on the inside. She's smarter than average, and her tendency to think too much gets her into trouble again and again. What is it with smarter than average, tough but tender crime fiction characters that makes their brains turn off and their mouths go into overdrive? I don't know, but thank goodness they do because that's what makes the story.In Cornelia Read's second Maddie Dare novel, THE CRAZY SCHOOL, we catch up with Maddie after circumstances force her into a teaching position at the only school that will employ her -- a last-stop boarding school for socially and psychologically troubled rich kids. At Santangelo Academy, it can be difficult to distinguish the discipline from the therapy, and everyone follows the same bizarre rules -- students as well as teachers and staff. It's not long before Maddie has her back to the wall as she tries to keep the most disturbed students and faculty at bay while simultaneously trying to isolate victims from victimizers.I like the character of Maddie Dare. She's smart, but not smart enough to have all the answers. She's got a sharp wit and, like all of my favorite crime fiction heros, she questions herself as well as authority. It's those inner explorations of the character's own mind and motivations that make crime fiction so compelling to me. Occasionally while reading THE CRAZY SCHOOL, I thought the author went a bit over the top. It wasn't always easy to believe that some of the practices at Santangelo Academy would be allowed to continue for as long as they did. But I told myself to suspend disbelief and just go with it for a while. After all, some truly bizarre "therapies" have been common practice in the past, but I won't give any examples lest I offend anyone who might have benefited from them. (See, I'm not smarter than average -- my mouth barely operates in first gear, nevermind overdrive. Sigh, guess I'll never be a crime fiction protagonist!)I enjoyed THE CRAZY SCHOOL. It was a nice blend of stimulating and escapist fiction. And I'm looking forward to the next Maddie Dare novel, THE INVISABLE BOY, which is due out this month.
Another excellent book in Cornelia Read's Madeline Dare series.Madeline has escaped Syracuse for somewhere that's not a lot better - a private school for troubled teens in the Berkshires. She's teaching English and disturbed by the cultlike way the school is run - think EST with teenagers and you'll have a sense of the place. When two of her favorite students turn up dead, Madeline knows something bad is happening.Read expands on Madeline's life with her husband, Dean, and on her life in this second novel. She introduces new characters, including Sitzman and Wiesner, two teens from the school that you can't help but love. More Sitzman and Wiesner, please!Once again great plotting, fun story, cool atmospherics, and growth in the main character. This was very hard to put down and I can't wait for the next one.
Santangelo Academy is unique - a crazy school for crazy teens and their equally crazy teachers. The students all have "behavioral problems" (like beating people) and are on medication. The teachers too have past "issues." Madeline Dare, the newest teacher, has a secret or two herself. The headmaster, guru, chief therapist, David Santangelo incorporates some rather unconventional techniques into his educational philosophy. His methods are dubious, to say the least. Two students die in an apparent joint suicide after a party (I use the term, "party," loosely, because Santangelo Academy is not a partying place) - or, as Madeline suspects, was it murder? She, too, drank the punch and became extremely ill - was it poisoned and by whom? I really like Madeline Dare. She's strong, resilient and quick with an acerbic comeback. I thoroughly enjoyed Read's snappy dialogue and her feel for the setting and context of her characters. And, for once, I didn't guess everything before the end. A fresh, new find for me. I had fun - and that's a good thing! Think I'll try her other Dare book - Field of Darkness.
Madeline, aka Bunny (yep, she's a Wasp), attracts trouble of the most deadly kind. In this second book, she has reluctantly taken a job as a teacher at a school for very troubled teenagers, run by a headmaster who seems more like a cult leader than a principal. It strained my credulity that the goings-on there would have been tolerated by anyone (especially the spunky Bunny) for more than two minutes - but the writing zips along with a refreshing energy, and you've gotta love Bunny and her foul-mouthed ways.
Enjoyable, not terribly taxing. If you've every been to the Berkshires, or in a school for rich, difficult adolescents, check it out.
I enjoyed this book more than A Field of Darkness by the same author. If I hadn't read this book than I might not have checked out any other books after reading A Field of Darkness.This book kind of reminded me of the movie Disturbed with Katie Holmes
I loved Read's debut novel, "A field of darkness," and found Madeline Dare a wry and refreshing character. Madeline just doesn't cut it in this second novel -- the acceptance of much of the plot is just too preposterous in relation to the gritty theme. Just why is Madeline teaching instead of writing? And why at such a wacky school, with rules few teachers would ever put up with? Why do her students like her, instead of run all over her? Why is her wealthy uncle willing to help her out so? Etc, etc, etc. The final flaw -- it is all wrapped up too cleanly and easily at the end. I read it because I liked the first book; otherwise, I wouldn't have finished it, and probably never picked it up.
Something doesn't smell right in the boarding school for troubled teens in the Berkshires.Maddy Dare is a teacher (although I found the hanging thread of being shot while she shot someone? never explained...) in this bizarre institution.Sparse narrative. Well written. Good voice and excellent character development. Enjoyed the twists and turns, and I do not like mystery as a genre!
Santangelo Academy (referred to by some as "the Crazy School) is a boarding school for wayward teenagers who have run out of conventional schooling options. New teacher Madeline Dare finds that some of the "therapeutic" requirements prescribed by Dr. Santangelo are unconventional and downright sadistic. And when two kids are found dead, with Madeline framed as the killer, she finds out that something sinister is going on within the Crazy School.First, let's start off with something I didn't know before I began reading this book, this is the second book in the Madeline Dare mysteries. A Field of Darkness being the first and where it looks like you get more background information on the clever and witty Madeline. You definitely do not have to read a A Field of Darkness to enjoy The Crazy School though. There is some hinting as to Madeline's past but nothing that deters from this story.Although it did have a slow beginning, Madeline, her hubby (which was a hoot), her students and the staff at the school quickly grow on you. Ms. Read gives her characters this funny, ironic, and even cynical humor that I just can't help but to love. I loved Maddie's therapy sessions... I mean she makes her therapist cry. Just classic really. I definitely had a few laugh out loud moments.Towards the second half of the book it really picks up its pace and you find the pages flying by as you try to uncover the mystery which is just as thrilling as it is heartbreaking.This can be enjoyed by older teens and adults alike. Definitely one to add to your reading list if you are a fan of quick-witted heroines and well-crafted mysteries.This book was provided for review by Hachette Book Group.
This was my first time reading Cornelia Read and I won't be reading her again. Finishing the book was a feat unto itself. Where do I even begin? The language of the book is artless, crude, and child-like at best. The main characters (and her sidekicks) are somewhere between their late twenties and mid-thirties and a very large part of their dialogue is made up of curse words, biting trivial commentary, and rebellious speech. To make matters worse, the characters are teachers. I'm in my mid-twenties and on track to be a professor and I enjoy my curse words, but I have never heard anyone speak in the way the author has the characters speak in this book. This fact alone makes extremely difficult to relate to any of the characters while at the same time making it a tedious read as the whole time you are thinking (this is so fake...no one talks like this). There are so many holes in the plot the book is like a sinking life vessel. She introduces characters for no apparent reason (as they do not add to the story). The very reason for the main character, Madeline, even coming to be at the school is never fully developed and (since the author is putting Madeline in the very center of the mystery because of it) it becomes a huge problem. In fact, expounding on her characters history should have been a huge part of the book (for the way she wrote it) and this is something she doesn't do at all. It seems as if her desire to write a successful murder mystery was in conflict with her desire to re-write the way we view and stereotype disturbed children, and as a result she is successful in portraying neither. My recommendation would be to take a pass on this one.
Well...crazy is definitely a good word to describe this one. It was a dark and engrossing tale of a "mental" school who's faculty should be the ones locked up! Cornelia Reed did a fabulous job keeping up the quick pace of the book and keeping the reader guessing. There are several plot twists and turns that are very unexpected! Her characters are wonderfully built and the story flows well. It has a very climactic and shocking ending. It's definitely a great book club or reading group pick.
The ending-after-the-ending - kind of giddily Anthony Horowitz-ish.Once the mystery got rolling, it kicked pretty solid ass. I'm thinking a next book might try being a more pure mystery to good effect.Beautiful job with the kids - expertly done and so sympathetic, as most teens should be, as they are still children under all the posturing.Madeline's voice remains strong, though I was kind of sad that she discovered Prozac at the end of the book - :)If she comes back peppy and happy, I don't think I can bear it.
Ms. Read's sophomore novel is even better than her first. Things are not well in a western Massachusetts boarding school for troubled teens, and one dedicated teacher, herself a wild and crazy girl, sets out to make things right
Madeline Dare is back and in this book she is teachng at a boarding school for disturbed teens. She is astonished at some of the methods used, but stays because she really connects with the students. Of course, she finds herself in the thiick of things when two students die mysteriously,.
Accidentally started reading this because someone brought it to work. I was hooked instantly. I googled it to realize it was the second book. Went on here, bought all 4 and read them back to back. Good series. It's kept me interested.
Don't waste your time or your money!!! I can't believe this book got quite a few good ratings. The premise is ridiculous--a last resort boarding school in the Berkshires for troubled kids--but it appears the State does not check into anyone's credentials for teaching nor especially for medicating their student body. A psychiatrist or analyst who is unaware that they aren't supposed to share private session information with others. I could go on and on. The only thing more ridiculous than the premise is the dialogue., especially of the main character Madeline. When was the last time you heard a woman say, "I had to piss like a race horse?" And why she threw that in as the last sentence in a chapter was even weirder, since it had nothing to do with the story. I rarely give less than three stars for books, but this one was the exception. I only hope this book was an aberration and her other works are better.
From the first page, this book is purely amazing. It usually takes me a while to get through a book, but I finished this in about three days because it's just that good.
I've had this book laying around the house for almost a year now and just today, as it was rather rainy, decided to pick it up. I did not expect to plow through all 300 plus pages in less than 12 hours, to say the least. I was quickely drawn in by the subject matter as somene who is a psych major and hopes to in the near future, work with emotionally troubled teenagers. Besides that I love a great mystery, so this book ticked both of my boxes for fiction prose. I was also quite (happily) surprised that this was based in part on a real "crazy school" as I'm also a history buff. I can surely say that I will be reading Cornelia Read's other two books that feature Madeline as the main character as soon as I can get my hands on them.
A great series of books about a smart, witty, mostly broke, loyal character, Madeline Dare who always seems to stumble into situations that put her in danger and she feels compelled to help the authorities solve. I love this series although I do feel that the she goes a bit overboard with the "f" bomb. I don't mind the use of the word but sometimes in this book it felt forced. There is a lot of
This book was gripping while still being startingly funny. I tore through this, just because I couldn't bear to put it down. I hadn't realized this was the second book, but it didn't seem to matter all that much. I can't wait to get the first and third, and apparently now the fourth, books in this series.