Tuesday, March 8, 2016

#Cybils 2015 Finalist Review: Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy by Sarah Vaught

Dealing with a mother who has bipolar disorder isn't always easy for Fontana "Footer" Davis, 11, especially when she goes off her meds and ends up in a mental hospital.  Which is exactly what happens after she kills a copperhead with a big-game hunting gun.  To help her cope, Footer enlists her best friend, Peavine Jones, and his younger sister Angel, to carry out an investigation into the fire that burned a neighboring farm to the ground, who shot and killed   Mr. Abrams, the farmer, and what happened to his two grandchildren, Cissy, 12, and Doc, 6, who have been missing ever since.

There seems to be two things going on in this novel - one is Footer's coping with her mother's bipolar disorder which results in her hospitalization whenever she goes off her medication and Footer's fears about her own mental health. the other is the investigation by Footer and her friends, Peavine and Angel, into the death of unfriendly neighbor Mr. Abrams, the fire that totally destroyed his house and his missing grandchildren Cissy and Doc.

To complicate matters, Footer is beginning to have olfactory hallucinations.  At first, she only smells the smoke of the Abrams fire, but as they begin to get stronger and she can smell fire and blood as well.  But when Footer begins to see things that happened at the Abrams farm the night of the fire, she isn't sure if she is crazy and having visual hallucinations, or if her visions could possibly be a flashback, in which case, she and Peavine really needed to solve the mystery surrounding the Abrams farm.  Especially since her own mother is part of the vision or was she really there and why?

To make matter even more complicated, Footer seems to have taken up sleep eating - raiding the refrigerator and pantry without even remembering it.  But without gaining any weight considering the volume of food her seems to be consuming.

If all these disparate things tie together, will all of Footer's worst fears turn out to be true?

Footer Davis is Probably Crazy is  mainly told in the first person by Footer, with the inclusion of school assignments that she relates to what is happening in her life, and notebook entries of interviews with various people - some suspects, most not - conducted by Footer, Peavine and even Angel.  I really liked the mystery part of the story since it seems to me to be the kind of thing an 11 year old could really get into.

The story is well written, well plotted, but I did have a few problems with the novel...

I felt that, with the exception of Footer, most of the characters didn't really have much depth.  They were there only to as props for Footer's story, even Peavine, who had more depth then most of the others, including Footer's mom.  Same with Footer's concerned teacher, Ms. Malone, and the social worker from the Department of Child Services, Stephanie Bridges.

I also wondered why it was necessary for Peavine to have cerebral palsy since it didn't really figure into the story. In fact, it's actually only mentioned once as the explanation for how Fontana became Footer.

And I wondered by Footer's mom was bipolar.  Was it to get rid of her? Or could it be a plausible explanation for Footer's hallucinations and questioning her own sanity in light of some of the events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the Abrams children, in which case it would just be a plot device.

And yet, oddly enough, despite these criticisms, I very much enjoyed reading Footer Davis is Probably Crazy and would recommend it to middle graders looking for a contemporary mystery.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

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