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Lisa, Bright and Dark by John Neufeld
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Lisa, Bright and Dark

by John Neufeld

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The stuff that after-school specials are made of...and I'm not kidding, 'Lisa, Bright and Dark' was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV drama, the cover says so.

But don't be so quick to judge, this is hardly 'Go Ask Alice' or any other histrionic 'What Happened to the Chiiildreeen!!' fare. Neufield is quick to establish Lisa Schilling's dilemma and the concern of her classmates Mary Nell (M.N.), Elizabeth and Betsey and the lack of response from teachers, the guidance counselor and Lisa's own family.

It's through Betsey, a girl who before Lisa's crisis was only an acquaintance, that the story is narrated. M.N. is focused on diagnosing the problem, and the new girl Elizabeth is strangely aloof, but Betsey is warm-hearted and concerned, and habitually moons over Paul Newman's eyes (zowee!!).

That last exclamation aside, Neufield is good at capturing the voice of teenage girls. In the middle of improvised group sessions the friends will begin chatting about movies or tease the over-eager M.N. over her Freud pretensions. And he gives them common sense. Even after the girls realize they're the only ones who are going to help Lisa, they never stop trying to get the teachers and her parents involved. They look through psychology books for answers, but question the safety of their actions and question their motives, always acknowledging that it doesn't matter if they're the ones who help Lisa, only that she is helped.

While hardly a classic, this book is a lightning-quick read and certainly timely for a period when mental illness really began being discussed openly. Neufield wrote a whole string of socially-conscious novels for teenagers and, reading this one, I can see why he was so popular. He doesn't preach and still gets the right message across. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Disappointing. Characters were one-dimensional and I didn't feel any empathy for the main character. ( )
  olegalCA | Dec 9, 2014 |
This book contains the line "We all rushed to Elizabeth's house at lunch and nearly raped Dr. Donovan for news." Oh man. Neufeld follows up with "(I looked that up. It means "to seize", which is perfectly OK in this sense.)". Needless to say, this book is a little creepy since it's an older male author writing as a 16-year-old girl who is sexually naive but totally obsessed with boys.

But really, the whole thing reads less like a story about people and more like a public service announcement about mental illness in teenage girls. It's a pretty shallow portrayal. We are told Lisa is crazy, and certain incidents are described, but we're not shown much. True, it was written in 1969, but it hasn't aged well. Not impressed. ( )
1 vote edenic | Feb 6, 2012 |
There were a few specifics that didn't quite "ring true" for me, but that might be due to the style of the writing prevalent in the late sixties. Overall, the general issues were presented well and it was easy to identify with Lisa and her friends. Lisa herself reminded me of one of my patients many years ago--a young woman whose long black hair was parted in the middle and draped over her eyes like two heavy black draperies. On her good days, we were allowed to see her eyes and on her bad days her eyes were completely covered. A good read and I'm glad the book was selected for reprinting. ( )
  Sandra305 | Mar 28, 2010 |
This book is definitely dated in its social references and hopefully, in its portrayal of how mental illness is dealt with in families and public schools. However, it remains a strong story about young people who are willing to do anything necessary to get a friend the help she needs. ( )
1 vote ABurrell | Dec 7, 2009 |
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For my father, without whose understanding and patience there would have been neither "Edgar Allan" nor this book.
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"Daddy, I think I'm going crazy."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141304340, Paperback)

Lisa Shilling is 16, smart, attractive--and she is losing her mind. Some days are "light," and everything is normal; during her "dark" days, she hides deep within herself, and nothing can reach her. Her teachers ignore what is happening. Her parents deny it. Lisa's friends are the only ones who are listening--and they walk with her where adults fear to tread. This classic novel of a teenager's descent into madness, in the tradition of Go Ask Alice and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, has remained a best seller for close to thirty years.

"Compassionate and tragic, an indictment of adults who refuse to get involved."--The New York Times

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:05 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Sixteen-year-old Lisa, smart, attractive, and outwardly successful, suffers from a nervous breakdown that only her closest friends seem to notice and care enough about to try to find a way to help her.

» see all 4 descriptions

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