I am a fan of James Patterson; I love the Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club novels. But for the most part he co-authors his books with other authors that don’t seem to get the same recognition – his book farm seems to churn out novels in record time, as every time I look at the bookshelves in a supermarket I can pretty much guarantee there will be at least one of his titles there. That said, I do like the fast-paced thrillers that are quick and easy to read.
As well as thrillers for the adult market, James Patterson also writes books for children and young adults and I have just finished reading one of his YA novels – Crazy House, co-authored with Gabrielle Charbonnet, very different than his usual thrillers. Crazy House is a dystopian thriller for teens and young adults (I would say 14+), part of a series, and is similar to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
The story focuses on identical twin girls, Becca and Cassie Greenfield, 17, who live in an agricultural town, or rather cell. The mother is gone, and their father is dying in hospital, so they look after themselves and their farm as well as going to school. ‘Careful’ Cassie is the good twin whilst ‘Ridiculous’ Rebecca is more rebellious, not necessarily bad twin. The cell is tightly controlled by Provost Allen, everybody has a vocation or is at school, crime is very minimal (at least recorded crime) and even illness is low. A very peaceful town with everybody living in ignorant bliss as long as they don’t venture over the boundary line.
Cassie wakes up one morning to find her truck and sister are missing. The town doesn’t believe anything untoward has happened, even though other teenagers have disappeared. That leaves it to Cassie to try and find her sister. And what she discovers leaves both sisters on death row in the Crazy House – a prison for teenagers! And nobody has done anything wrong apart from being deemed enemies of the system. Both girls will change during their prison time, but with no charges and no trial, the only way out is death, or is it? Will they get out alive?
Overall, I enjoyed Crazy House, although it does have some problems. It is a violent dystopian thriller where teenagers are kidnapped, thrown in a prison and tested, trained and take part in brutal combat where they beat, kick, and punch each other senseless. And then there are the very public executions of the children in front of the prisoners by the evil Ms. Strepp.
It is quite violent with the kids having to fight in the ‘ring’, there is a brief mention of rape and there is some frequent but mild swearing so it may not suit young teens that are easily upset.
Readers don’t know what year the story it set in, although you do get a very strong impression of it being sometime in the future. You have no idea what led to the United States being split up into these cells and being controlled by the mysterious United.
The story, although incomplete, is fast-paced with Patterson’s trademark short and punchy chapters that keep the attention of the reader (especially teenagers) and there is always something going on and plenty of action.
Being a dystopian thriller, it shows how the citizens of the cells/towns and the prison are controlled and manipulated by their authoritarian regimes, whether that is the town Provost or the prison warden. Whilst it has a similar feel to it like The Hunger Games, for me it isn’t as good of a story. That said, it is a fast, action-packed story that is an enjoyable read, but to get any kind of closure you will need to read the second part of the series, The Fall of Crazy House and this instalment is definitely only half of the story that I felt ended a bit abruptly and didn’t tell enough of the story or backstory.
An enjoyable story that is worth a read, hopefully the next book will give it a more complete and enjoyable outcome that fills in some of the incomplete story.
RRP: £12.99 (Hardback) / £6.99 (Paperback) / £2.99 (Kindle)