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Crazy Hardcover – April 11, 2000

3.9 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Boarding school antics and teenage epiphanies fuel this slim but entertaining runaway German bestseller (more than 200,00 copies sold), an autobiographical debut by Lebert, who's 16. Benjamin, the novel's protagonist, is also 16, a misfit who must struggle against a near-paralysis of his left side and a chronic lack of academic aptitude to merely get through life. Having flunked out of four schools before the novel's beginning, he comes to Neuseelen, his fifth, where he must graduate from ninth grade or else. He quickly befriends a set of similarly maladjusted teens; together, they search the school grounds for excitement. When such limited pleasures as after-hours booze and raunchy teen sex wear thin, they head for Munich, where they are guided by a wise old man (who claims to sing "the song of life") to a strip club for a night of drink and debauchery. As the book moves toward its end, Benjamin flunks out yet again and is sent home, without any sign that school or life have taught him anything. Lebert's knowing yet ingenuous voice and the flatness of his exposition give character to his tale, but the action revolves around the cliches of adolescent life. Although the characters are likable and also quite believable, they don't grow substantially from their coming of age. Ultimately most interesting as a publishing phenomenon--Lebert's insights into human psychology, society and development are understandably limited--the novel moves along at a good clip, and what it lacks in depth it does make up for in animation and verve. Rights sold in Denmark, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, the U.K., France, Spain, Norway, Finland, Slovenia, Estonia, Croatia, Brazil, Greece, Taiwan, Portugal, Poland, Sweden; Turkey, Israel, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-The young protagonist is shuffled between boarding schools supposedly for poor grades in math and German (his native language), but more likely because of his inability to mesh with the image the administrators have about the students who attend their schools. Benni is partially paralyzed on his right side, a condition that seems to have more of an effect on the adults around him than on his peers, and he forms a natural clique with a group of fellow outcasts. Benni, Fat Felix, Skinny Felix, Janosch the ringleader, Troy the bed wetter, and Florian aka Girl go in search of an existential experience, which includes sex but also encompasses finding the meaning of life with a capital L. The boys develop a philosophy of the soul that includes keeping yourself spiritually alive into adulthood and doing the crazy things that enable life to speak through you, in all its hard, crappy glory. The obvious comparison to Holden Caulfield is misplaced here; the adults who surround these students are not phonies or actively evil, but presented as minor obstacles to the experience of real life, when they appear in the boys' consciousness at all. The novel is nearly over before an adult assists the runaways by buying them tickets to Munich and introducing them to adult entertainment. Comparisons of the teen novelist to S. E. Hinton are somewhat obvious, but what is more important than outcast status and the bonding of family in this novel is the ability to create a family among people far from home, with only one another to draw on.
Sheryl Fowler, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st American ed edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375409130
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375409134
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 4.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #889,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph J. Hanssen on February 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is an enjoyable little book about the coming of age of a sixteen year old boy attending a boarding school in Germany called Castle Neuseelen. It's an inspiring story about how tough it can be at this age learning about friends, relationships and dealing with pier pressure. Benjamin Lebert also has to deal with another problem, partial paralysis. Life's pretty tough at this age, but it's even harder for Benni. A lot of his education takes place after school hours, as the young boys learn about real life at the girl's dorm, their first sex, alcohol, and even an adventure to Munich.
I was amazed at the skill presented here by this very young author who has a written a very touching and sensitive story (part autobiographical) about his experiences in boarding school. This is a book for everyone to read from a very talented German author. If Crazy is Lebert's debut to the world than this young author has a very bright future. Check this touching story out for yourself. I am sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
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By Peter V. on April 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I read about Mr. Lebert in the New York Times and found myself kinda interested, but I soon forgot about it. Then, I went to my local Borders Books and Music to get a gift for someone. While there, I noticed Crazy. I went and bought the book, just to see what it was like, not expecting much. But WOW! This is an unflinching portrait of the brutality, loneliness, happiness, freindship and ultimate craziness of youth. Contemplative yet devoid of vanity. Cool but intelligent. Up there with my favorites. I bought this book yesterday(4/16) at 5:00 pm and finished it before 10 the same day. I couldn't put it down. Truly awesome. A must-read for all teens. This is a really great book. Short, precise, absolutely awesome. There were some odd things about the writing itself, but they were proabably just errors in the translation or something. Really good book.
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Format: Hardcover
I absolutely love this book. Although it's not a representation of all the teenagers in the world (at least not me), it certainly tells something about being young, something almost every one of us could relate to. Every page is being turned with a smile on my face, and every line fits to be a perfect paragon of Benjamin's definition of "literature". I enjoy the fresh style; it's simplicity, and honesty. Thank you, Benjamin! I heard the movie just came out in Germany...hope it will open in the US soon...it's going to be very interesting.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was great! I couldn't put it down! The fact that Lebert is only 18, makes it more special. They (Lebert and his follow boarding school runaways) talk about life, friendship and girls, all too often. They want to know more, and go out to find it in the city, instead of at school. Lebert's problem of being cripple is most interesting and you know what he is going through. I highly suggest this book to anyone, esspecially teens.
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Format: Hardcover
What an amazing story coming from such a young author! As soon as I got the book home I have been reading non stop and finished it in a day and a half!( I had to sleep and eat that is why it took so long) Not many authers keep my interest the way Benjamin Lebert has. Great book about teenage boys and the crazy things they do while learning to become a man.
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Format: Paperback
In fairness, this book may have a different effect in its original German. Thus, the following comments may only apply to this English translation.

Several of the major characters in this book are extremely underdeveloped and only drawn in caricatures (e.g., the overweight boy and his overstuffed bag of candy, or Skinny Felix who is defined only by the fact that he is not overweight). Further, the adolescent boys have vague philosophical talks about the heroism of living life to the fullest--all the time! This not only bogs the book down and rings incredibly false, but it also runs contrary to the actual philosophy of living life to the fullest. There is so little action compared to the amount of time spent talking about being active.

It also seems uncreative that the climax to the story and supposed epitome of living life to the fullest consists of a drunken visit to a strip club, cut extremely short by the main character passing out. For a coming of age story, I saw little to no growth in any individual aside from one of the side characters (Troy).
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Format: Hardcover
This is a touching autobiogrphical novel, written when the author was 16, about a German boy who is crippled on his left side and with learning disabilities, trying in vain to stay in one boarding school after another long enough to graduate, but making wonderful friends and having crazy coming-of-age experiences. His love of reading, particularly of The Old Man and the Sea, and his love for his dead St. Bernard, who was his true friend and protector for 14 years, are reason enough to love this book. I found the boys' philosophical discussions and their positive outlook in the face of harsh reality to be endearing.
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Format: Paperback
Let's be up front about one thing right now, if this novella (it's short enough to be read in two hours) hadn't been written by a 16-year old, it wouldn't have gotten the hype it has, and very well might not have been published period. While it is an impressive achievement for someone so young, this coming of age work from Germany is highly derivative of that most famous of coming of age novels, "The Catcher in the Rye." In what must be a highly autobiographical tale (this is a fair assumption given that the narrator is given the same name as the author), Lebert recounts "Benjamin's" months spent at his fifth boarding school. He's partially crippled, and academically suspect-and his parents use this as an excuse to pack him off while their marriage crumbles. Always regarded by his peers as either an object of contempt or weakness, not to mention strange, at this new school he instantly falls in with a group of five other misfits (it's not clear where the bullies are in this school, only the gang of six and a some girls they party with are ever mentioned).
There are two main set-piece episodes: the sneaking up to the girl's floor for a late-night party, complete with drunkenness, awkwardness, and the losing of virginity, and the running away to the big city (New York... oh wait, no it's Munich...). Throughout these reasonably well-written, but generic "adventures," the gang engages in some rather unlikely and insipid philosophizing which severely undermines what charm the book has. Lebert is at his best in capturing small intimate moments (the description of his dog's death, the scene where he reads "The Old Man and the Sea" to his friends), as opposed to grand statements on life.
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