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Sure Signs of Crazy

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  3,557 ratings  ·  535 reviews
A poignant and powerful coming of age story perfect for fans of Wonder and The Thing about Jellyfish

You've never met anyone exactly like twelve-year-old Sarah Nelson. While most of her friends obsess over Harry Potter, she spends her time writing letters to Atticus Finch. She collects trouble words in her diary. Her best friend is a plant. And she's never known her
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 20th 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (first published 2013)
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Stacey Realistic-fiction for upper elementary and middle school

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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  3,557 ratings  ·  535 reviews

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Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Dear Sarah Nelson,

Im writing to tell you how much I enjoyed the story you share in your own words called Sure Signs of Crazy (by Karen Harrington, who helped you write it down). It makes me so sad that your mom tried to drown you when you were only two years old. How hard it must have been for you to grow up without your mom, since she was confined to a mental health facility. On top of that, when your dad drinks too much and forgets to take you out for your twelfth birthday, and the only best
Richard Cardenas
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it
2.5 STARS!!

I was really excited to read this because it had been on my shelf for a whole year and MG contemporaries involving Mental Health are books you rarely see. But sadly this was one big borefest of a read and it's only 270 pages long. This takes place during a summer and nothing really happens, except for Sarah finally finding the courage to tell her alcoholic father how she really feels. I was really rooting for this because it was super intense, I mean the main character's own twin
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
1. highly extraordinary or prodigious; exceptional

That is what I think of this wonderful book by Karen Harrington. Sarah Nelson is a newly minted twelve year old who just happens to be a logophile. She also has a pet plant that she confides in and her favorite novel is To Kill a Mockingbird.

How could I not love a kid like that? Sarah just wants to have a great summer for once in her life. Unfortunately, she and her alcoholic dad are always trying to keep one step ahead of a
Sep 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's an absolute pleasure to spend time in the head of Sarah Nelson. For a twelve year-old, she is lugging around a heavy burden. Her mother, in a terrible fit of crazy, drowned Sarah and her twin brother, Simon, when they were two. Only Sarah recovered. Mostly. Sarah's mother is now in prison, and her awful crime is public knowledge.

Sarah is that wonderful combination of smart, observant, and naive. She tries to puzzle out life by gleaning wisdom from Atticus Finch, the too-old boy next door,
I totally thought this was going to be emotionally riveting. A young girl is dealing with her life 10 years after her mother tried to drown her and her brother, succeeding in killing her twin brother, while she survived. As Sarah approaches age 12 and is growing into a young woman, she is faced with many challenges.
She lives with her dad who is very sad and drinks to cope, she is curious about her mother who is institutionalized, and is worried about doing a family tree in her upcoming 7th
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Children's books have ventured into ground once held only by the occasional teen read. Poverty. Alcoholic parents. Dwarfism. Issues that were once taboo for younger, sensitive readers.

I was one of those sensitive readers. I still am. I've had to put away a lot of books that are too difficult to read.

After i read the blurb on the back, I was very worried that I'd have to set aside this book.

No fears. Yes, it is a difficult subject (the main character's mother drowned her son and tried to drown
3.5 stars

I kind of liked this book and kind of hated it. Good: 89%, Bad: 11%.

Does Plant count as a character? Because she was my favorite. Just standing there, giving Sarah advice. It's adorable, actually. It ridiculous, but when Sarah put Plant in the ground I was like "No! No, Sarah! Don't leave your best friend to die! No!". Almost in tears, I tell you. That Plant is like Old Yeller or something.

Sarah was a interesting character. I also have a love of words, but I can't say that I love
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: 12-14
Recommended to Beverly by: notable children's books choice awards
I was skeptical that a book dealing with catastrophic mental illness could be targeted to middle grade readers and deal with the subject in an authentic and significant way. I was very wrong to be skeptical. Karen Harrington's novel is moving and memorable and not even a little bit overly sentimental or superficial. Protagonist Sarah Nelson is an inspiration and a role model for how to deal with life's difficulties. From minor horrors like having to buy a box of "girl supplies" from a young male ...more
Jan 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Sarah's voice was not believable as a 12 year old girl.
Barb Middleton
The more I write reviews the more I realize how much my biases come into play. I like a story with a fast pace. This story is not fast-paced. I like a story with lots of dialogue. This story has more interior monologue. I like a story that is funny. This story is dramatic and sad. I like the fantasy genre the most and the horror genre the least. You get the idea. The difficulty of writing a book and then having a review based solely on biases must be irritating for authors. I find it hard ...more
Kathy Martin
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY is the story of a momentous summer in the life of Sarah Nelson. She has just finished sixth grade and turned twelve. Her best friend Lisa has gone away to camp and Sarah has finally convinced her father that she is old enough not to be sent to her grandparents' house for the summer vacation. Sarah and her father have lived many places in Texas and are currently in Garland. Each time they are spotted, they have moved.

Sarah's mother is infamous because she tried to kill Sarah
Larry Wentzel
Jul 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best older children's books I've read. The story follows, stream of conscience style, the life of Sarah Nelson who grapples with turning 12, a burgeoning sense of self-awareness, and a need for answers. She has more questions than God to ask and no one she can turn to, so she addresses imaginary characters and inanimate objects. Her family lives under a cloud of infamy that dogs them wherever they go, making them afraid to be recognized.

I found it surprising how candidly some
Crystal Bandel
Sep 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington, published 2013.

Realistic fiction.


Grades 5-8.

Found via Booklist, reviewed by Abby Nolan.

When Sarah Nelson was two, her mother tried to drown her. She succeeded with Sarah's twin brother, but now Sarah's mother lives at a psychiatric ward, and her father habitually drinks to sleep at night. Sarah, now twelve, just wants to have a normal summer instead of being shipped off to her stay with her grandparents. Surprisingly, Sarah's father obliges, and
Mary Sanchez
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: realistic
Twelve-year-old Sarah Nelson worries she will inherit tendancies to be crazy like her mother, who tried to drown Sarah when Sarah was two and did succeed in drowning Sarah's twin brother. There were two sensational trials and Sarah's mother was institutionalized in a mental facility in Texas. Sarah hates it when people discover she's from that Nelson family because it means her professor father, with alcoholic tendancies, will pack them up and move to yet another rented Texas house. There's no ...more
Susan  Dunn
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: j-fiction
Her mother has been institutionalized ever since she tried to drown 12-year-old Sarah when Sarah was two. At the same time she was successful in killing Sarah's twin brother. Will Sarah be mentally ill too? She is worried - but there's no one she can talk to about such terrifying issues. Her dad is a functioning alcoholic. Every time a new story comes out about her mother, they pull up stakes and move to a new town where no one knows them. Sarah is tired of moving, and tired of hiding, and tired ...more
Tamara Sakuda
Oct 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult-teen
Sarah Nelson is one of my new favorite characters in Young Adult Fiction. This is the quirky story of a girl in the summer between 6th and 7th grade. She has already had to navigate a mine-field is issues in her short life: crazy mom, distracted/stressed dad, and moving constantly. On the advice on her English teacher, Sarah begins her summer writing to her favorite character: Atticus Finch. The reader follows Sarah on her summer of discovery as she finds her voice and the strength to face her ...more
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Loved Sarah, the main character, her inner voice, her interactions with others, and and especially the tie-ins to Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird." The premise of following up on a child a decade after a botched murder attempt made by her mother is fascinating & heartbreaking, but too grisly a premise for my elementary age readers. Also the book is (justifiably) very harsh on the media exploiting the story for cheap ratings boosts, at the cost of ruining Sarah & her father's attempts ...more
Jul 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya-fiction
Laughter, tears, and, if you have read To Kill a Mockingbird, a punch of extra genius with the last line. As a person who has a loved one with mental illness, this was a heart-wrenching and hilarious read. Sarah handles her fears as any child would--don't talk, don't ask, examine every move in case you are next. But she finds a friend in Atticus Finch, and the summer assignment other kids blow off becomes her redemption.

The only negative I have is that most kids who read this book will never
Kat O'B
May 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Though not normally my preferred genre, I really enjoyed this book. I just loved the feeling that I was actually hearing a child's way of thinking about adult issues-- her voice seemed very authentic. This is an interesting and unusual story premise and a very likeable main character. Tough topics, but done tastefully, so this book will be great for the middle school library.

Angie Marie
May 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am in LOVE with this book. Sarah and I had SO much in common. She inspired to me to write about anything and everything I'm feeling. She gave me the desire to write a letter to her, her mother, her father, and her twin, Simon. I even teared up a bit! I could go on and on about this book saying wonderful things. I want more people to read this book!
One Sentence Review: Had some nice moments in it and it's certainly a readable premise, but I'm a little disappointed that the central worry (whether or not she'd turn out crazy like her mother) was dropped like a hot potato midway through.
May 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: library, ebook
I was a huge fan of courage for beginners and mayday, they were some of the best books I read that year. I really wanted to like this but Sarah's wasn't a very believable 12 year old, she seemed a lot younger like 9 or 10.
Wendy Darling
3.5 stars
Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Sarah is an enjoyable narrator with her love of words, her list of "danger words", keeping two diaries, having a plant as a best friend, and her observations of the people around her. Though she is also still a 12-year old girl so it was interesting to see what things she missed. I don't really know where I was thinking this would go, but a "coming of age" story was not at the top of my mind. Silly.

It was a good read and she felt real. A real 12-year old girl full of confusion and awkwardness
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Sure Signs of Crazy" was hilarious, heart wrenching, worthy of tears, laughter, and everything in between. Karen Harrington did a superb job of writing this book and I fell in love with her characters and felt very deeply for them. Extremely well written.
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Such a moving book- I was honestly surprised.
Rebecca Schweitzer
I received an advanced review copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.

I enjoyed reading this book. I thought the main character, Sarah Nelson, was easy to identify with, likable and interesting. The story follows her into her summer vacation during which she wants to solve several problems, some personal, some familial and some related to the upcoming seventh grade. I loved reading from a 12-year-old perspective, which I felt the author captured quite well. The story was sweet. The
Aug 03, 2017 rated it liked it
The inside cover is misleading.
Teresa Scherping Moulton
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
NOTE: The book jacket and the above Goodreads description of this book leave out an important bit of information about Sarah's life which makes the book darker than it initially appears. This info is revealed in the second sentence of the book, however, so I'm going to give it away in my summary. If you hate spoilers of any kind, don't keep reading!

Sarah Nelson and her dad have had to move a lot in the past ten years. Every time their family secret shows up in the news, they can't bear to endure
Ashrith Rao
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book a lot it really brought you into the story and literally wouldn't let go of you. I got hooked into the story so early because it talked about something I had never experienced. I really felt like I was apart of the story I felt like I was there when her twin died when her mother drowned him. This is a great book and I highly recommend it to everyone.
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Karen Harrington is an author and former speechwriter. Her books include SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY (2013), COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS (2014) and MAYDAY (2016) all from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Her books have appeared on nine state reading lists.

Sure Signs of Crazy was also a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the year, a 2014 Notable Childrens Book selection from the Childrens Literature Assembly and

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