Crazy for Alice


Young Adult - Social Issues
306 Pages
Reviewed on 03/30/2016
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Author Biography

Young Miss Dunn wasn’t known for her academic record. “If Alex put as much effort into schoolwork as she did daydreaming, she’d be a straight-A student,” read one report. Everyone guessed Alex would grow up to be a writer, but travel became her career of choice, and she spent many years living the corporate high life in various exotic locations. Until the night she had a dream she simply couldn’t forget. An abandoned castle, a plutonium candle and fearsome demons that would end the world if she didn't extinguish the eerie white flame before midnight. Alex’s stories had been simmering inside her for years, and they were starting to burst out. So, she put her pen to paper.

Since that fateful evening Alex Dunn has become known for her edgy YA fantasy novels and a loyal readership awaits her up and coming series, Alchemyne: The Blackest Phase, which follows Captain Franklin Tennant, a fifteenth generation warrior who must defeat an army of undead, led by a vengeful spirit

    Book Review

Reviewed by Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite

Sixteen-year-old Ben Howard is smart as a whip and a swim champ to boot and would make any parent proud. However, all is not as it seems in the Howard household. Ben’s father is an abusive drunk and, one fateful night, life as Ben knows it comes to screeching halt when he and his drunk father are involved in a tragic car accident that leaves his father dead – and only Ben knows what really happened. Reeling from being dumped by his girlfriend, Wendy, and his father’s violent death, Ben slashes his wrists but his older brother, a cop, finds him and saves his life. In Ben’s mind, his life isn’t one that’s worth living anymore and he falls into a deep depression to the point where his mother and brother, Gavin, check him into a sanitarium called White Waves. Shortly after arriving, and in the midst of utter despair, Ben falls into a coma and enters a parallel universe which he calls “Grey World” due to its lack of color. Grey World is a jumble of various famous landmarks from around the world and it’s during Ben’s exploration of his surreal surroundings that he meets Alice.

As Ben and Alice explore Grey World together, he slowly learns bits and pieces of information about Alice and becomes smitten with her. Just when things begin to look up for Ben, he’s pulled from the Grey World back into the real one where he learns that he’s still at White Waves and that he’s been in a coma for the last six months. Ben scours the Internet, hoping to find something on Grey World and finally finds a book written by Mary, an old woman with MS who had landed in a coma some years back which she vividly remembered. Her descriptions of Coma World are very similar to that of Ben’s Grey World and he soon contacts her, eager to go back to Grey World to get Alice.

Crazy for Alice by Alex Dunn is an angst-ridden YA novel that deals with some heavy subject matter. It’s also one of the best-written novels – in any genre – that I’ve read in quite some time. Aptly titled, the story demands, and extracts, every last ounce of emotion from its readers and simply put, the story is crazy good. Without a doubt, Crazy for Alice is depressing. However, the book is also thought-provoking as it has the courage to explore that no man’s land between life and death that few of us have ever experienced. The author doesn’t force us to buy into this alternate world he writes about, but merely puts it out there for our consideration. Dunn’s prose is casual and his portrayal of Ben and his so-called mental deterioration as he becomes more obsessed with finding Alice is extremely well done. We cannot help but sympathize with Ben’s plight and his growing desperation to find Alice, but at the same time, it’s hard not to feel for his family and their utter helplessness and despair as they watch Ben’s mental stability erode before their eyes. An excellent book from start to finish and one that fans of John Green should definitely read.

Jack Magnus

Crazy for Alice is a young adult contemporary novel dealing with depression written by Alex Dunn. White Waves Asylum was the last place that Ben Howard wanted to be, but his mother and brother were convinced that the doctors there could help him. The sixteen-year-old's suicide attempt had been unsuccessful, and he was still not interested in living any longer. While his mother was convinced that he had slashed his wrists because his girlfriend had broken up with him, his depression was due to a far more serious issue than that. Life with his mother had become increasingly more difficult after the death of his abusive, drunken father in an auto accident. Ben had been trying to get the man home for a surprise 50th birthday party Ben had arranged for his mother, but his father was angry about leaving his tavern and was predictably violent and bullying. Ben still couldn't face the fact that he had killed his father, and he couldn't let his family know it wasn't just an accident. Witnessing his mother's grief and knowing he was to blame had become unbearable.

Alex Dunn's contemporary young adult novel, Crazy for Alice, is taut, terrifying and suspenseful. Ben's stay in White Waves Asylum and the doctor's misdiagnosis of his mental state leads to massive amounts of medications that dull his senses, and nothing he can say or do will get him back out into the real world except to go along with the regime. Then, when he finally is released, his room and bathroom have no locks, his razor is gone, and he doesn't even have a belt for his pants. His every movement is monitored by his mother as he's kept a virtual prisoner in a room decorated to have a soothing, cheerful effect. No one stops to talk to him and find out what his issues are or what actually happened the night of the accident, and once he was committed, everything he says or does is dismissed as the actions of a mental patient. Ben's coma and the time he spends in the Grey World is considered the result of his mental illness. Any attempts he makes to resolve the whereabouts of Alice, the girl in the Grey World who's given him a reason to live, are thwarted by well-meaning relatives who don't have a clue what is going on, and who've decided he's not to be trusted. This is a powerful story that reveals the struggles and societal judgments people with depression often have to deal with in addition to struggling with their own condition. I found myself fully immersed in the tale. Alex Dunn made me feel Ben's frustration, feelings of impotence and anger, and this book helped me understand a lot more about depression and its impact. Crazy for Alice is a stunningly eloquent tale, and it's most highly recommended.

Heather Osborne

Crazy for Alice by Alex Dunn is certainly one of the more interesting psychological novels I’ve read lately. Ben’s mother, worried after he attempts suicide, has him committed to White Waves Asylum. While there, he slips into a coma and enters what he calls the Grey World. There, he meets some strange people, including a young girl named Alice. Each person is tethered to an object or building. Ben is baffled at first, but the more time he spends there, the more he comes to love Alice. Then, he wakes up. He quickly realizes his experiences are not unique. Thus begins his desperate search for Alice in the real world. However, his family and friends are skeptical of his experiences, and think he’s still suffering from mental illness. Will Ben manage to find Alice in time, or will there be too many obstacles in their way to happiness?

When I began Crazy for Alice by Alex Dunn, I certainly was not expecting the story that unfolded before me. I finished the book rather quickly, instantly absorbed in the plot, and wanting to know what happened in the end to Ben and Alice. If I were to have one criticism, it would be how Ben was treated in the mental health facility. Again though, I’m not sure if what happened to him is standard practice. I’d have liked maybe a note at the end explaining that portion of the novel, maybe discussing how people with mental illness are treated in modern society. Other than that, the novel was complete, with clear character development and plot line. I would certainly pick up other books by Alex Dunn.

Chris Fischer

In a great new read by author Alex Dunn, Crazy for Alice is a story that will stay with readers for a long time after they've turned the last page. Follow the story of sixteen-year-old genius Ben Howard after he has accidentally killed his father and tried to kill himself. He's placed in a psychiatric facility, and enters The Grey World, a place hidden deep within his own mind, and a place where he can hide from any feelings. It's in the Grey World that he meets Alice. Alice helps him to heal, and he falls deeply in love with her. When he returns from The Grey World, no one will believe him and, in fact, they think that he's still suffering from a terrible mental illness. Will Ben be able to prove the reality of Alice, or will he find that everyone who surrounds him is right? You'll have to read the book to find out.

I so enjoyed Crazy for Alice. It's unusual for me to find a book that is as unique as this one, and I am so glad that I did find it. Author Alex Dunn has done a fantastic job in creating characters, especially protagonist Ben, that readers will truly care about, connect with and be able to relate to. If that's not a hallmark of an excellent author, I'm not sure what is. His world creation abilities while exploring The Grey World, are simply second to none. I am so pleased to give Crazy for Alice the highest recommendation I possibly can, and I look forward to reading more from Alex Dunn as soon as possible.