From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose faces numerous problems that run the gamut from divorced parents and friendships gone sour to relationship angst and acne, but her biggest concern is her mother's battle with schizophrenia. Throughout November and December, Aura tries to keep her life on track, holding secret the dark tunnel she has fallen into as she follows her mother from one psychotic episode to another. Finally, unable to face her difficulties alone, Aura asks for help from her estranged grandmother. Schindler paints a realistic picture of living with a schizophrenic, describing the details from Aura's point of view. She also explores the teen's fear that one day she will succumb to the disease herself. At various times, Aura describes the way her stomach "fists" when the tension overwhelms her. This tension is transferred to readers, so powerful is the empathy the author has built for her main character. Teens will find themselves slowly breathing a sigh of relief as Aura's life returns to a semblance of normalcy, once her mother gets the help she needs. Any story about mental illness will not be an easy read, but a very good one will reward those who stick with it. A Blue So Dark
definitely falls in that category.—Wendy Smith-D'Arezzo, Loyola College, Baltimore, MD
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*Starred Review* As her beautiful mother, Grace, an artist, sinks into schizophrenia and refuses medication, 15-year-old Aura feels terrified and isolated. Aura also worries that she may have inherited her mother’s genetic disposition for the disease, and because she associates it with creativity, she stops exploring her own painting and writing. Soon, both the caretaking and the secrecy her mother’s illness engenders become impossible for Aura to sustain, and as she increasingly misses days of school, her mother’s erratic behavior spills over into public scenes. Debut novelist Schindler paints a graphic picture of mental illness and the toll it takes on its victims and their families. Schindler’s astute, powerful descriptions of the creative process and its ability to mirror the anguish and terror of schizophrenia, as well as its potential to alleviate pain and suffering, elevate this story beyond problem-novel stereotypes or a clinical recounting of symptoms. Grace’s relentless descent into madness is breathtakingly, gut-wrenchingly authentic, and while Schindler does not sugarcoat the grim possibilities for either Aura or her mother, she leaves readers with some hope for the characters’ futures. A haunting, realistic view of the melding of art, creativity, and mental illness and their collective impact on a young person’s life. Grades 8-11. --Frances Bradburn