Saturday, March 1, 2014

"Wakefield (Mad World Book One)" by Erin Callahan and Troy H. Gardner

(Mad World Book One)
by Erin Callahan and Troy H. Gardner

Wakefield is the first book in the Mad World series. Also available: Tunnelville. Coming soon: Perfection. Mad World is planned to be a six-book series.

Wakefield is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

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 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.”
“That’s cool.”
“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.

Favorite Lines
"I had to admit, sometimes I sensed the strangeness of the world tugging at my sleeve, like a mischievous toddler, and I wanted to follow it."
"I felt like I had butterflies with fangs and big leathery wings in my stomach ..."
"I melted like butter on hot pavement."
"You might be one of the smartest people I know, but sometimes it's like you're too grounded for your own good. Like you live in a little world of perfect logic. Don't you want to believe in possibilities? Whatever happened to your sense of wonder?"


By Lynda Dickson
Wakefield tells the story of Astrid and Max, two orphaned teenage residents of Wakefield, an institution for troubled or mentally ill youth. The beginning of the book deals mainly with the day-to-day occurrences at Wakefield, including the poor treatment of the inmates by some staff members, especially Clarissa who seems to enjoy handling her patients with excessive force. Things start to heat up with the introduction of Teddy, a boy who claims to have special powers. Several other inmates begin exhibiting unusual powers as well, and Astrid and Max start having strange and vivid dreams. When one of the inmates goes missing after revealing his powers, the other kids make plans to escape with the help of an unexpected ally. What are the secrets of Wakefield? What is the mysterious Dr Lycen hiding? And what's with the strange drug Cigamadrine that Dr Lycen seems to be prescribing for everyone?
The ebook version of Wakefield has the "back cover blurb" at the beginning of the book, a feature I believe should be compulsory in all ebooks. However, the book description is a bit misleading and made me think the story was taking too long to get started. Astrid and Max, the two main characters, don't even talk to each other until Part Two, a third of the way through the book. The story is told mainly from their points-of-view. Unfortunately, their voices aren't different enough to distinguish them, and at times I found myself forgetting who was telling the story. This surprised me because I assumed authors Erin and Troy were writing as Astrid and Max respectively, which I later found to be the case. A couple of chapters are told from the point-of-view of Eduardo, a clinician; the relevance of this becomes apparent later in the story. Too many characters, both staff members and inmates, were introduced at the beginning of the story, making me wonder if they would all be relevant and necessary to the story. It turns out they are, so pay attention. I also found there to be a bit too much character description and unnecessary detail.
That being said, I found the whole book to be written in a great, natural style, with very few errors. The individual writing of the two authors is not discernible and the story stands as a cohesive unit. After reading the whole book, I discovered that I liked the "slow" beginning, detailing the inmates' daily activities and interactions, more so than the action at the end. I'm surprised that the word "paranormal" is not listed anywhere in the description, categories, or tags on any of the book sites, including the book's own website, so take this as your warning. While not a cliff-hanger as such, the ending does leave the story open to being continued. Once again, be warned, this series is expected to consist of six books.
All-in-all, I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more in the series.

About the Authors

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, New Hampshire, to Moultonborough, New Hampshire.

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