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A Blue So Dark (Starred Review)
Date of Review: 
Published Work: 
Frances Bradburn

As her beautiful mother, Grace, an artist, sinks into schizophrenia and refuses medication, 15-year-old Aura feels terrified and isolated. Aura also worries that she may have inherited her mother’s genetic disposition for the disease, and because she associates it with creativity, she stops exploring her own painting and writing. Soon, both the caretaking and the secrecy her mother’s illness engenders become impossible for Aura to sustain, and as she increasingly misses days of school, her mother’s erratic behavior spills over into public scenes. Debut novelist Schindler paints a graphic picture of mental illness and the toll it takes on its victims and their families. Schindler’s astute, powerful descriptions of the creative process and its ability to mirror the anguish and terror of schizophrenia, as well as its potential to alleviate pain and suffering, elevate this story beyond problem-novel stereotypes or a clinical recounting of symptoms. Grace’s relentless descent into madness is breathtakingly, gut-wrenchingly authentic, and while Schindler does not sugarcoat the grim possibilities for either Aura or her mother, she leaves readers with some hope for the characters’ futures. A haunting, realistic view of the melding of art, creativity, and mental illness and their collective impact on a young person’s life.