Title: Crazy For Alice
Author: Alex Dunn
Publisher: Alex Dunn, 2016
Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Fiction
**I received a copy of this book free from the Author in exchange for an honest review**
Sounds intriguing, right? I totally thought this was about Ben meeting Alice in like, a colorful world, and he was trapped in some sort of gray wold. I was wrong, but I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was an Alice in Wonderland retelling, but I was wrong. But I was once again pleasantly surprised. This was a book that threw my assumptions in the garbage and left me flailing…not knowing what would happen.
I’m glad I was wrong.
We meet Ben in an asylum. He’s being committed for a suicide attempt. His father was killed in a car accident with Ben present. Everyone thinks Ben tried to kill himself over the loss of his girlfriend, Wendy…but it’s not true. Ben tried to kill himself because he’s hiding a secret: his father wasn’t responsible for his own death…Ben was. And he can’t tell anyone.
When the doctor leaves Ben in his room, he starts to rehash the night his father died. But as he reflects back, he is sucked into a vortex and he emerges into a Gray World. Ben feels nothing: no sadness, no joy, no hunger or thirst. He also is all alone. He wanders for what feels like days (time passes strangely there), and he eventually starts noticing people that are like living statues. They seem to be unaware of a difference in the world around them. But Ben glimpses a beautiful girl that hides from everyone, so he pursues her. Eventually, the two strike up a friendship…though Alice is a model and way out of Ben’s league. When they are about to kiss, Ben wakes up in the real world, and as he screams for Alice, everyone tells him he’s been in a coma…for six months. Ben doesn’t care: all he cares about is getting back to Alice.
But is Alice even real? Or has Ben really lost his mind?
Is it Classroom-Appropriate?
Yes, yes, yes! This was a great read that shows the toll mental illness takes not just on a person, but on their family members as well. Our unreliable narrator makes us doubt Ben, then believe for him, and in him, and then root for him. There is enough to play with in terms of plot and character development…questions that could be asked of the class concerning Ben’s Gray World and if they believe Ben or his family. Also, it brings up depression and loneliness, as well as the idea of an alternate plane of reality. I would definitely think of using this in a classroom. I think it’s a good read for students and has just enough fantasy to make it fun, but enough reality to make it also believable.
Because of the suicide attempt, and the occasional cussing, I would put this in a upper level bracket age range. Probably 17 and up to be safe and not offend parents. It also could be used in college English classes, or even psychology classes to discuss erotomania (a term mentioned in the story) and schizoid (not schizophrenia) personality disorder. I also would encourage the book to be read outside of school.
I give this book ★★★★☆. I finished this book yesterday but had to work and then I went to the Allegan Antique Fair this morning. But Alex Dunn did an amazing thing with this book…she took me on an intense ride through Ben’s mind. I would’ve liked to know more about the Gray World and how it operates…there are theories but I’m so curious now that I want more. And the book did move quickly at first and I was confused until I realized what had happened. I would have preferred a smoother transition into the world to understand it better: I had to reread the beginning a couple times to picture it in my mind. But I’m nitpicking. I think it’s a wonderful read and I’m fortunate to have received it from Dunn. I want to read more from her. This book is intense, and I warn you that you will get a case of the feels throughout…and especially at the end. However, I recommend this book to ALL OF YOU. ALL. I really think y’all will like it. 😉
Thank you again to Alex Dunn and the Goodreads group We Love YA for a chance to review this book. This is my complete honest opinion. Now go read it yourselves.