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Black Box by Julie Schumacher
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Black Box

by Julie Schumacher

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From the very first pages of this deeply emotional and engaging young adult novel, readers are plunged into the depths of adversity and drama. Elena’s seemingly ordinary life spirals down a steep slope of sadness, uncertainty, and instability when her older sister, Dora, is hospitalized for severe depression. With her family in a state of crisis and her social world collapsing in loneliness and isolation, Elena must shoulder the immense burden—at any cost—to restore normalcy and balance. Schumacher artfully embeds accurate depictions of depression throughout insightful descriptions of the bond of sisterhood, fragility of family life, and teenage tribulations. The short chapters of this relatively quick read (~160 pages)—ranging in length from a few pages to a single striking line—parallel Elena’s jarring environment and tug the reader along with a sense of gripping urgency. ( )
  paulavev | Dec 3, 2012 |
Two sisters, one with depression and one dealing with her sister's depression. ( )
  bookwoman137 | Aug 4, 2011 |
This is a powerful read, and a true peek into the world of depression and how it effects other people.
Elena is strong, and it is hard to experience her sister's depression and the fallout, but it is such an important topic. She makes some mistakes, and it shows good things to do and not to... As relating to her sister, her family, and keeping her life outside of Dora going. It is such a hard balance.
Jimmy is a great addition, and even though I began to suspect his big secret, I really loved how he stepped up and was there for Elena.
This is a quick and poignant read that I def recommend.
  brandileigh2003 | Jul 18, 2011 |
Sibling in mental hospital for treatment of depression. ( )
  matilda-sharan | Mar 19, 2011 |
I sometimes keep a book at school on my desk and read it during Silent Sustained Reading during the school day. Sometimes, the book will go home with me and other times it will languish on my desk for a while until I finally finish it. This book is of the latter category; I've had it on my desk for a couple of weeks and have read it every day.

The fact that I have not taken this book home to finish is not a commentary on how well I appreciated or enjoyed this book. It's almost like the structure of the book, which is almost like a series of short vignettes than actual chapters, allowed me to read ten or fifteen pages and then set it down for a later reading. It had a bit of a meditative affect on me--I couldn't stop thinking about the characters in it once I got into the book, but didn't want to rush them through the story. I am a fast reader, but sometimes like to slow down the process for a book that requires a more thoughtful reading. This book, for me, is one such read.

Black Box is the story of a girl named Elena and her experiences over the course of a few short weeks. The book opens with her beloved older sister, Dora, having survived a suicide attempt. Dora is in treatment for her depression, but Elena is feeling lots of guilt and anger about the situation. Her parents are not absent or abusive, but they are a little lost in exactly what they should do to help their daughters. And, both daughters do need help.

Elena turns to a boy she just met, Jimmy, for help. He wears a lot of black and is generally known as a bit of an outcast, but seems to understand what Elena and Dora might be going through. Jimmy tells Elena that his brother tried to commit suicide and has had treatment. Jimmy and Elena forge a tight friendship and a tiny little romance--though this is not at all the focus of the novel.

I decided to finish this book today after having listened to a podcast of This American Life last night while doing dishes. One segment in that podcast dealt with a man who had recorded interviews with a friend who had attempted suicide and who still planned to kill himself even after being rescued by emergency workers. This story troubled me deeply; I have know a few people who have committed suicide and I know the pain and devastation that a suicide (attempted or successful) leaves.

At the end of this story, the author includes a little afterward, where she says that a friend told her not to publish this book because of the subject matter. While I understand that it is hard to imagine any teen wanting to commit suicide, I know that it happens. I think, as the author points out, that depression can leave those experiencing it and those around a depressed person with feelings of loneliness and absolute desolation. Books can help to bridge that void. Characters can speak to the reader when a relative or a counselor or a friend might fail.

This book may not be for every reader, but I am happy to have it on my classroom shelves. I know that it will be of some comfort to a handful of my students who are dealing with their own issues of depression or who are trying to deal with the depression experienced by people they love and care about. ( )
  mrsderaps | Jan 6, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385735421, Hardcover)

WHEN DORA, ELENA’S older sister, is diagnosed with depression and has to be admitted to the hospital, Elena can’t seem to make sense of their lives anymore. At school, the only people who acknowledge Elena are Dora’s friends and Jimmy Zenk—who failed at least one grade and wears blackevery day of the week. And at home, Elena’s parents keep arguing with each other. Elena will do anything to help her sister get better and get their lives back to normal—even when the responsibility becomes too much to bear.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:28 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

When her sixteen-year-old sister is hospitalized for depression and her parents want to keep it a secret, fourteen-year-old Elena tries to cope with her own anxiety and feelings of guilt that she is determined to conceal from outsiders.

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