Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler

Tags: YA, art, schizophrenia, mental illness, family, mother-daughter relationships


Ever since her dad left for another woman, Aura Ambrose has been alone with her mother, Grace, and it's been far from easy. Grace, a talented artist, has schizophrenia, and is often immersed in episodes where she confuses what's real and what isn't. Aura is terrified that, thanks to genetics and her own creative proclivities, she will also become crazy like her mom, and so she shuns her art in order to stay sane. As Grace spirals more and more out of control, however, Aura can no longer hold things together on her own.


A BLUE SO DARK is an astonishing achievement by debut author Holly Schindler. Aura's story is horrifying, enthralling, and touching all at once, and will certainly open readers' eyes to situations they've probably never considered before.

I have never read a book about schizophrenia before, but Holly Schindler writes these heartbreaking scenes between Aura and her mother with a conviction that thus carries into the reader, absorbing us until we, like Aura, cannot escape from the horror. This writer's confidence shows in the character of Aura, who doesn't necessarily approach her situation with more aplomb than reasonable in a teenager, but who also doesn't dissolve into histrionics. Aura keeps her narration poetic yet direct, even as her mother further deteriorates, and this contrast in situation vs. presentation only serves to amplify the terror that she--and we, connected as we are to her--feel as we watch her mom.

A BLUE SO DARK is really a story about family, and thus while some non-family characters are not quite as strongly developed (e.g. Aura's crush and best friend), we really get a complete sense of the important family members: the three generations of women in Aura's family, each of whom is satisfyingly different in action yet similar because they are family.

A BLUE SO DARK, with its evocative cover and fascinating premise, blew me away with the way it handled such a delicate issue. This is a real good one to read if you're looking to expand your experience with books about psychological illnesses. Can't wait to see what Holly has for us next!

Similar Authors
Julie Anne Peters

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - It's a beautiful, eye-catching, haunting cover, but after reading the book, I'm annoyed. Yes, dealing with a family member with a mental illness, as well as fearing for your own sanity, is a lot like trying to survive underwater. But where are Aura's curves??!? When will publishers stop this ridiculous idea that only skinny people can be models??! *irked*

Flux / May 1, 2010 / Paperback / 277pp. / $9.95

Book received from Traveling ARC Tours.


  1. I've seen this book once before and remember being interested in reading it. It sounds like a difficult book to read, but also very powerful. Wonderful review!

  2. Loved this book! And as a standalone the cover is beautiful but it really doesn't represent Aura, you're right.

  3. Wonderful review, Steph. I'm so glad to hear it impressed you.

  4. Awesome review! I can't wait to read this one.

  5. Sounds interesting! I'll check it out.

  6. Great review. I'm not sure the cover would make me pick up the book, but your review certainly would.

  7. I worked in Psychiatry for years, so of course this subject intrigues me. I'll have to keep an eye out for it. Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. Love the review. I've been playing around with adding this one to the wish list, and it sounds like I should.


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