(The Mad World Saga Series)
by Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner
Published by: MuseItUp Publishing
Orphans Astrid Chalke and Max Fisher meet when they’re sent to live at Wakefield, a residential and educational facility for teens with psychiatric and behavioral problems. Astrid’s roommate cuts herself with anything sharp she can get her hands on and Max’s roommate threatens him upon introduction.Just as Astrid and Max develop a strong bond and begin to adjust to the constant chaos surrounding them, a charming and mysterious resident of Wakefield named Teddy claims he has unexplainable abilities. Sometimes he can move things without touching them. Sometimes he can see people’s voices emanating from their mouths. Teddy also thinks that some of the Wakefield staff are on to him.At first, Astrid and Max think Teddy is paranoid, but Max’s strange, recurring dreams and a series of unsettling events force them to reconsider Teddy’s claims. Are they a product of his supposedly disturbed mind or is the truth stranger than insanity?
I have mixed feelings about this book. I really loved the concept. I was very excited about what this book had to offer and looked forward to reading it. I do feel a little bit let down about the pacing of the book and once I started reading, I had a hard time staying interested.
In Wakefield, we follow the day to day activities of several residents of Wakefield, a residential and educational facility for teenagers who have behavioral or psychiatric problems. Some of the teens start believing they have special powers and things get wonky from there. It really makes you question how many patients of these types of facilities actually have the problems they are there for, and how many have medicinally induced problems. I spent much of this book feeling like I missed something as to why there were patients in the same section of the facility with such varying degrees of issues. There were some with seemingly miniscule issues, such as a suicidal “misunderstanding”, and one who didn’t seem to have anything other than simple depression or anorexia (please don’t take that as I think anything about depression or anorexia is “simple”, but it was the only word I could think of to get my point across as to it not being as complex of a problem as, say, schizophrenia). Then there were patients on the opposite end of the spectrum, such as those with schizophrenia or other similar problems. I’ve never worked in such a facility, but I would imagine they wouldn’t necessarily put the tough and potentially dangerous cases in the same area as the others. But that’s just my perspective, so please don’t take that as an expert opinion.
I really wanted something crazy (no pun intended!) to happen in this book. I really did. It just felt like it was moving soooo slow for me. It did pick up a bit there at the end, but not enough for me to forget that the first ¾ of the book dragged ass. I would really have liked to be given better details as to why each of them is in the facility, but that has a lot to do with my own curiosity.
So now that I’ve said what I didn’t like, here is what I did like. I really enjoyed the way Wakefield was written. I liked the back and forth of perspective with Astrid and Max and how we were given a look into what their individual lives were like and the lives of those around them. I did feel there were times that reminded me of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but it was mainly with the way Clarissa reminded me a lot of Nurse Ratched. Max was in Wakefield due to a “misunderstanding” and Randall Patrick McMurphy was in his facility to avoid jail time. So the reader is given the impression that neither is institutionalized for a valid reason.
I enjoyed the overall writing style, in that it wasn’t written too clinically, like many books of this type are. I liked that the “bad guy” is really bad, and I could find no redeeming quality about him. I didn’t feel conflicted in that. I really did feel bad for the kids in this facility. It’s hard enough being a teenager, but to be locked up like they are would be horrible, and knowing that some of them didn’t have anyone in the world that cared about them or that some of them were stuck in this life with no real hope of things changing was heartbreaking.
Overall, I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it either. I would recommend this book, but only to certain people. If you are looking for something with mild activity until the very end, and an interesting twist to go along with it, go ahead and pick up Wakefield. There are likeable qualities to the story, you just have to be dedicated to reading it all the way through.
I ran a hand lightly against the cold wall, imagining the force it would take to smash through it. The yellow lights above shone with a dull intensity that turned my stomach. The doors all matched, and I felt claustrophobic. The only thing that broke up the monotony was the random graffiti scribbled on the walls. Most of it had been scrubbed off, but I could make out faint lines here and there. They were like ghosts, just out of reach. Realizing I wouldn’t be able to leave these walls, I slunk down to the shiny, white floor and nearly cried.
“Hey,” a timid voice called out. It was the goth kid I’d noticed earlier. He was bone thin and had a long mop of straight hair that matched his black shirt and pants. He pushed the hair out of his face; the movement showed off his seven or eight bracelets.
I ignored him completely, so he approached very slowly and said, “You’ll get your regular clothes back tomorrow.”
“They give them back the next day.” He bobbed his head. He was younger than I was, but I couldn’t tell by how much. Dark hair covered half his face, which made him look younger, or he might have been little for his age.
“I look stupid,” I confided.
“Yeah, those suck,” he went on. “They made me feel like a tool when I got here. But you won’t have to wear them again. I haven’t.”
“So, welcome to Newton,” he said with a half grin.
“Yeah, this part of the building. We have to pretty much stay in our own area. There are three other units—Whitehall, Lancre, and McCarthy. We’re the best.”
“Clearly. I’m Max,” I introduced myself as he sat down against the opposite wall. He acted like I was a dangerous animal, moving slowly, like I might pounce at any minute. The woman at the staff desk looked up over her laptop for about twenty seconds before going back to whatever she was doing. I wondered if he thought he was fast enough to outrun me. I doubted he was. “So what do I call you?”
“Uh, I’m Azrael,” he told me shyly. He looked away, down the hall, in case I’d laugh at him.
“Your name is Azrael?” I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to scare him off, but it was a weird name.
“No,” he admitted and looked up at the ceiling. “It’s really Jon Applegarth, but I like Azrael better. It’s stupid, I guess.” He shrugged and let out a deep breath. I could tell he was not a fan of Wakefield.
“Did you get your name from the cat in The Smurfs?” I asked.
“No, I just like it. It sounds vampiric,” he said, brown eyes glistening with excitement.
“All right. Azrael it is then,” I reassured this kid.
He turned his face back to me and grinned. He had a tiny row of neat, little teeth.
“So, Simon’s your roommate, huh?” he asked, though he was fully aware of the answer.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“I’m sorry,” he squinted at me, lowering his voice.
“He’s that bad?”
“Some guys like him. Couple of the girls do, too,” Azrael told me. “I stay away if I can.”
“Maybe he’ll be cool to me.” I shrugged.
“Yeah, maybe,” Azrael lied. “I gotta go.”
I doubted Azrael had any pressing business to take care of, but I didn’t say anything as he stood up and skittered away. This wasn’t the sort of place you tell people how you really feel. I’d have to start practicing biting my tongue and letting people do what they want. At least it was nice of Azrael to sit with me for a few minutes, even though he only worried me about Simon. If people liked me before I came here, then why wouldn’t they like me here at Wakefield?
A fat guy, older than me, left a room up ahead. He looked at me for a few seconds and then continued on to the bathroom. I hung my head low as I stood and walked down the hall to stare at my darkened reflection in the small window. It was gray outside, and I couldn’t see much, but I would have given anything to be on the other side of that glass. It showed me a face that looked at least two years older than the last time I’d seen myself. Maybe I could get into R rated movies now. If only they’d let me out to see movies. I went back to my room, where Simon sat at his desk.
“Hey, do they ever let us out to the movies?” I asked Simon.
He grunted, so I sat on the empty bed to wait for my stuff to come. I didn’t know how long it would take the state social worker to bring my things to Wakefield or the staff to pour through all my belongings. I’d later hear how they’d go through all the pockets and seams for anything cutters use. They’d also check my music and movies to make sure none of it was inappropriate.
My “new” dresser was a simple, beat up, wooden monstrosity shoved against the wall. At least it looked more inviting than the bed I sat on. It was a wooden box with eight holes on the sides for straps to pass through in case the staff needed to restrain anyone in their rooms. Small rails cradled the thin, uncomfortable mattress.
Then I noticed a small rectangular camera hanging from the ceiling.
“Uhm, do all the rooms have cameras? Is that thing on?” I asked Simon.
“Yeah, dumbass, it’s on. And no, not every room has one. But because of your newbie ass, I have to live with a camera until they decide to trust you. Thanks a lot.”
At least I knew why Simon was angry with me.
Erin Callahan lives with her husband in the bustling metropolis of Hooksett, New Hampshire, and works for the federal government. She enjoys reading and writing young adult fiction, playing recreational volleyball, and mining the depths of pop culture for new and interesting ideas. A year after graduating from law school, she found herself unemployed and took a job as a case manager at a residential facility similar to the one featured in Wakefield. Though she worked there for just over a year, the strange and amazing kids she met will forever serve as a well of inspiration.Troy H. Gardner grew up in New Hampshire and graduated with a B.A. in English/Communications with a dual concentration in film and writing from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. He spent ten years working in the banking industry dreaming up numerous stories to write. When not writing, which is seldom, Troy busies himself jet-setting from Sunapee, NH to Moultonborough, NH.
Contact Erin and Troy
February 17 – March 16th
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