A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler
Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura's dad left them. Convinced that "creative" equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears.
A Blue So Dark was a twisted and emotionally draining debut novel. It was impossible to put down, but at the same time there were moments when I just wanted to look away, so shocked by what I was reading. This was one beautifully written and impressive book that I'm sure will stick in the minds of any and all readers.
To begin with, the premise of A Blue So Dark was one I have rarely seen tackled in YA fiction. That of mental illness; particularly schizophrenia and how it affects not only the sufferer, but the people surrounding that person- family, friends, coworkers. At fifteen, Aura Ambrose has the weight of the world (or so it seems) on her shoulders. After her father left, Aura is the only person around to care for her mother. Grace Ambrose, the once bright and outgoing art teacher is now sinking into the depths of her own mind. Aura's mother is seeing visions and is tormented day and night. My heart broke for the pair. Watching Aura's mother struggle with schizophrenia and, especially, seeing how it impacted her daughter was heartbreaking. Especially when Aura began to think her mother's creativity and passion for the arts was what "drove her mad" and tries to deny her own creative side.
Aura... what can I say about this strong, independent, and determined young teenager? She remained brave throughout her mother's decline and did her best supporting and caring for her mother, even when no one else seemed to be there for her. I wanted to scream at Aura's father, who just abandoned his wife and daughter, leaving Aura to deal with all the pain and hardships that come from caring for her mother.
I'm ashamed to say I didn't know very much about schizophrenia before reading this. I was shocked to see how frightening and terrible this illness really is and how much it can change a person. Holly Schindler obviously knew a lot about schizophrenia (or really did her research!) because she truly made Grace Ambrose a complex and believable character- one readers will want the best for.
My emotions were scattered while reading A Blue So Dark... a mix of angry, fearful, sad, and hopeful. There are quite a few additional characters that have a keen presence in the story and some are even dealing with their own hardships. If you're looking for a light read, this is most definitely not the book for you!
Overall, I definitely recommend picking up A Blue So Dark and I'm anxious to get back into her sophomore novel, Playing Hurt. Aura was an extremely well done character and her story will break your heart and put it back together again, only to have it break once again. There were some flaws in this book, but is anything perfect? Holly Schindler is definitely an author to watch!
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
May 1, 2010/Flux/266 pages/Young Adult
Source: Bought (Paperback)
Other books by this author: Playing Hurt