A Blue So Dark

( 9 )


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,...

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A Blue So Dark

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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.

Praise for A Blue So Dark:

"A truly real, emotional, and honest read."—Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Pay it Forward

"A Blue So Dark is a raw, compelling and eloquent portrayal of art and madness, and the freeing, healing gift of creativity. Schindler's voice is brilliant and true."—Carrie Jones, New York Times bestselling author of Need and Captivate

"Schindler's lyrical debut explores the nightmare of mental illness in a voice that is sharp and funny and all her own. This is as real as teen fiction gets. A must-read."—Crissa-Jean Chappell, author of Total Constant Order

GOLD MEDAL WINNER: IPPY Awards 2010 (Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction)

SILVER MEDAL WINNER: ForeWord Book of the Year Awards 2010 (Young Adult Fiction)

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Jonatha Basye
Fifteen-year-old Aura is trying to hold her family together. Her mother, a gifted artist, is slowly losing her mind to schizophrenia. She paints with frantic grace and refuses to take the medication that could help heal her brain and psyche. Aura, utterly helpless, can do nothing but keep watch over her mother. Her father is no help, having created a new family for which to provide and care. Aura begins to lose sight of herself; skipping school more frequently, worrying about the household bills, and ignoring the troubles of her best friend, Janny. Aura also worries that her mother's mental illness will become her own. She is gifted in her own right, but does not allow herself to create the images that have destroyed her mother. The pressure builds until Aura can no longer contain the cacophony of troubles that have invaded her life. Schindler's debut novel is a lyrical tapestry. Lines like "late August had bloomed, like a giant sweaty marigold," and "the morning weighs so heavily on me that I feel like Atlas" are poetry in motion. Her first-person narrative is witty yet biting at times. Aura's voice is clear and sharp throughout the novel. She is burdened with her mother's mental illness and is holding on for dear life; something that the reader will feel with every word Aura says, every action that she makes. Readers will forget this is a fictional tale—it reads like truth. It is an excellent first novel—a definite must-read. Reviewer: Jonatha Basye
School Library Journal
Gr 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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738719269
  • Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 5/28/2010
  • Pages: 277
  • Sales rank: 955,274
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Holly Schindler (Springfield, Missouri) dove headfirst into her writing pursuits after obtaining an M.A. in English from Missouri (ma-zur-ah) State University. Her essays, poems, and short stories have appeared in such journals as The Explicator, Slipstream, and Short Story. A Blue So Dark is her first novel. Visit her online at www.HollySchindler.com.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler

    What do I have to say about A Blue So Dark? The cover design is beautiful; its what made me buy the book to begin with. It matches the story, with the color of the water and detail of the title, perfectly. The title also drew me in. It sounded interesting and, obviously, dark. It is written almost lyrically, and I especially loved Aura's poems.
    Now for the story. Aura Ambrose has been caring for her schizophrenic mother ever since her father left them a few years ago. The story begins with her remembering an important event in her life from before her mother was diagnosed. You learn right away that Aura's mother is not normal and that Aura, as the only one caring for her, is hiding it from everyone else. As expressed in the description, both characters are artistic, but while Aura hides it, her mother does the opposite. Her artistic ability causes her to meet Jessie, her crush, in an art class. Near the beginning Jessie and Aura talk, and you realize, even though its hidden, that there is something between them.
    Holly Schindler wrote her characters very well. Aura's father was portrayed exactly right. You know from Aura that he just doesn't care enough to to help, and when you meet him, you know its true. And, while I have no experience with mental disorders, her mother seemed to fit the part exactly. Her actions didn't seem over the top or exaggerated, just how you would expect some who hallucinates to act. The only character who bothered me was Aura's best friend, Janny. I understand that she is busy and stressed by her own problems, but she seemed just flat-out rude and inpatient, making her an unlikable character.
    A Blue So Dark is pretty unique considering its topic. I think a lot of girls can relate to Aura, minus having a schizophrenic mother. I know I (and my friend who also read the book) did. Its a story that stays with you long after you finish reading it, but I just didn't click with it.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2010


    Such a lyrically beautiful book. You know how sometimes you'll find a sentence that just speaks to you, and you want to write it down somewhere so you don't forget? Well, almost the entire book was that sentence for me. Holly Schindler just has a way with words, that draws you right into the story and won't let you go until you've devoured every last word. This book really touches on a touch subject, but it was handled in such a real way. I really felt like I was living Aura's life with her. I wanted to scream and cry and rant as each event would come to pass. I was an emotional wreck...lol.

    There was no fluffy, generic happy ending with this one. No, you're all better now and there are no more problems. It was a happy ending that had to be struggled to achieve, and even then, it was only hanging on by a thread. But isn't that true of all of our happy endings? It's never really like the fairy tales, they get married and live HEA. No, it's a constant struggle to hold on to your HEA, and I'm glad this book showed just how true that is.

    I definitely recommend this book to all of you! I will be thinking about this book long after the pages stop turning, and I hope you pick it up and enjoy it as much as I did!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2010

    A powerful YA story

    My thoughts...This was a tragically beautiful story that will haunt you days after you turn the last page.

    A Blue So Dark breaches some difficult subject matter, schizophrenia. As you can imagine, the book is emotional, powerful, and deep. Holly Schindler does a brilliant job of writing the emotions of this young girl who is caring for her sick mother. Aura's protectiveness of her mother and their situation proves her worth as an incredibly strong, well-written heroine. I could feel her struggles and frustrations throughout the story. Her fear that she too will become sick like her mother causes her to make some wreckless decisions. Her actions may not have been the right choices, but given the situation, I can't help but think I would do the same thing.

    I have personal experience with someone with schizophrenia, so I was immediately drawn to this story. However it is more that just a story of a family struggling with sickness, the story goes deeper that that. A Blue So Dark is a journey in relationships with others and ones self, it is a story of love and loss, and of self discovery. I would recommend this book to readers of all ages. It is a profound story that will leave you thinking.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo

    Schizophrenia is at the center of A BLUE SO DARK. Aura has grown up surrounded by the disease. She never knew her grandfather, who suffered from the condition, and because her mother also developed the disease, Aura lives in fear that she will someday become schizophrenic as well. For the last three years, high school student Aura has been her mother's primary care-giver. Despite memories of her parents' deep love for one another, Aura's father finally gave up on his wife and left her for someone younger and healthier. Aura can't believe he simply dismissed them for his new life - with only the advice that Aura should be sure to keep giving her mother her meds. Unfortunately, Aura didn't heed his advice. When Grace begged her daughter to throw away her medications, Aura agreed. Since then it has been a downhill slide for the mentally ill woman. With her best friend involved in her own personal issues and her father busy with his new wife and child, Aura's support system has collapsed. Watching her mother suffer one episode after another, Aura final realizes things are beyond her control. There is one last person who might be able to provide the help Aura desperately needs, but does she have the nerve to seek out that help? All she knows is that her own descent into schizophrenia is her greatest fear. Debut author Holly Schindler takes readers into the world of the mentally ill. Through her main character, Schindler presents a realistic and frightening view of a disease that takes a devastating toll on the individual and his/her loved ones. Schindler shows great promise as a contributor in the area of young adult fiction.

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