Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review: A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler

Title: A Blue So Dark

Author: Holly Schindler

Pages: 288

Received from: the lovely author


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.

Aura's mother is sinking. Aura has only one thing to blame: art.

Schizophrenia has consumed two generations of her family--her grandfather and now her mother, Grace. Both were artists, just like Aura herself. As her mother's illness advances, she has made the connection that art equals batshit, and nothing can dissuade her. Meanwhile, she has become her mother's sole caretaker, since her father ditched the year before and is now living with his bubbly new wife and infant daughter (now wanting nothing to do with his insane ex wife and daughter.) Aura's best friend is too wrapped up in her own issues (y'know, teen pregnancy, baby, estranged boyfriend, the works...) to be any kind of help, and the only person Aura truly feels could help the situation is her grandmother/employer (who doesn't even know she has a granddaughter), not that the bitch would even ask for help; she promised her mother long ago that she would never tell anyone of her illness. So now she's left basically cleaning up after a large toddler with a teaching degree and buckets of paint.

Aura starts having to skip school, sacrifice any normalcy she had retained over the years, to care for her deterioting mother. The entire story takes place in a very short amount of time, all this crap crammed in to two hundred or so pages and you can kind of feel the urgency and desperation of the characters' situation. I read it in one sitting because there really is no other way to read it; the way Schindler writes is frightening in both its availability and sadness. She has written an incredibly relatable, if a tad underdeveloped, heroine that's stupid enough to strangle but awesome enough to cut in a little heart shape and put in your Best Friend Forever locket. Or something.

The really agoninizing part is watching Aura literally stomp on her creative urges like a recovering alcoholic would his cravings. I can not stand it when there's someone who's awesome at something but refuses to do it for some unfounded reason. There's this one part towards the end, that involves burning, where I was livid, slamming the book on my desk and pacing my room in fury (okay, not in fury.)

The romance was...unnecessary. As is really all romance these days, but in a speshial way. It was such a token, contrived thing that didn't contribute to the central plot whatesover, and Aura's ladylove just came off as an illusion, the ghost of some wistful fancy. Like, I was kind of hoping Jeremy would end up being Aura's schizopgrenic illusion, the 'voice' you hear so much about. But then, he wasn't saying anything useful. He was just this random kid who bugged her about painting his skateboard every ten pages and then rode off in a wave of sk8r boi chill-a-tude. And I'm just like, um, your cool and all. Do a dance or something.

Overall, A Blue So Dark was just...awesome. Not as awesome as it could have been, not as awesome as I wanted it to be, but it was still pretty awesome. I liked it way more then my fellow bloggers seemed to have, but maybe that's just cause I have a thing with mental illness (its sexy, you know.)

Rating: 7 out of 10


brizmus said...

wow, it really does sound just that - awesome!

Anonymous said...

I loved this book a lot. One of the best I've read in a little while.

Emma said...

Excellent review! Mental illness is fascinating.

grace crawford said...

Though there are many heavy aspects of this novel, there were lighter, brighter parts as well, like Aura's crush on a cute skater boy. This was a huge part of the novel, as expected, her mother's illness occupied much of Aura's time and energy, but I was grateful for the romantic reprieves.
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