Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler

GoodReads Description: Terrified that her mother, a schizophrenic and an artist, is a mirror that reflects her own future, sixteen-year-old Aura struggles with her overwhelming desires to both chase artistic pursuits and keep madness at bay.

As her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet keeps drawing Aura toward the depths of her own imagination—the shadows of make-believe that she finds frighteningly similar to her mother’s hallucinations.

Convinced that creative equals crazy, Aura shuns her art, and her life unravels in the process.

My Thoughts:
"Schizophrenics have abnormalities of left or right brain functioning. The left brain )the center of logic seems to be most affected. Which means the right side, the creative side, takes over. And that's why a schizophrenic is like a child playing dress-up, afraid of monsters, living in a world of make-believe."

This book moved me. I'm talking "picked-me-up-and-hurtled-me-across-the-room" moved me. I may very well be biased, as I am studying to be a psychiatric nurse. Mental illness intrigues me to no reachable end, and "A Blue So Dark" was a disturbing, frightening, and honest portrayal of a family shattered by schizophrenia. The illness itself is a formidable character in this beautiful novel.

15-going-on-16 year old Aura had no choice but to grow up prematurely in order to care for her mother, whose mental state has rapidly deteriorated. Aura promised not to force medication upon her brilliant artist mother as a testament to her loyalty to Grace as opposed to her absent father. Aura focuses more on her love and devotion to her mother and rules out the logic of actually getting help for her mother. Unfortunately, schizophrenia cannot be swept under the rug. It will not go away if you ignore it. Aura herself is a bitter, angry girl with so much pent-up aggression stemming from her parents' divorce and the fear that she, too, will eventually become a "schizo."

Aura's whole mentality scared me. She's surrounded with this illness for the last few years of her life, convinced that artistry makes you crazy. The gears in her head are constantly turning, torturing herself and monitoring her every action closely, losing herself to the thought that the day of her functional mental state are numbered. She's lost her father to another family, lost her best friend, Janny, to her son, and lost her mother to schizophrenia. The only beacon of hope in her life is Jeremy, the cute, cryptic skater with whom she shared her mother's art class. The love interest in this story definitely takes a backseat to Aura's struggle with her mother, which I appreciated. It's more realistic that way. Who has time to think about love when your family member can barely stay at home by themself without putting themselves or other in danger?

Schindler definitely did her research on schizophrenia, describing more than just the well-known visions/voices. She also incorporated clang association ("I'm not broker, broking, broke, broke"; "burn, burny, burning) and delusions of persecution ("Look at them up there, smug...Trying to drown me...And they won't let me through") which was impressive. The hallucinations themselves ranged from terrifying to kind of comical, e.g. Aura writing a letter from a pepperoni on a pizza in order to convince her mom to go grocery shopping. I didn't want to skim the block paragraphs, like in some novels, because I feared I would miss some earth-shattering, beautiful phrase that would enlighten or terrify me.

"Sanity is a sonnet with a strict metter and rhyme scheme--and my mind is free verse."


Schindler's prose is gorgeous. Everything flowed so beautifully, despite this being a difficult subject to read. I do highly recommend this novel, though keep in mind that it is neither light-hearted nor romance driven. It is powerful and disturbing. The ending was completely satisfying as well.

God, I loved this book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Series: Standalone.
Source: I purchased this book.
Published: Flux, 288 pages (May 1, 2010)

Learn more about Holly: Website | Blog | Facebook


  1. I didn't know you were specializing in psychiatric nursing. That's awesome :)

    I've been really intrigued by this book, and want to pick it up even more now. I'm glad to hear that schizophrenia was treated with accuracy and not just portrayed stereotypically.

    I saw somebody talking about this writer's guide to psychology on Twitter yesterday and I'm really curious about it, you might find it interesting, too:

  2. I'm so glad you liked this one, because I literally just bought a copy yesterday at the Twin Cities Book Festival. Looking forward to it even more now!

  3. Love the cover of this one. It pulled at me. Great review too - I'll probably give this one a chance.
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