Genre: Young Adult

Black Box by Julie Schumacher is a realistic fiction novel that follows a teenage girl named Elena. While Elena is the protagonist, the story focuses on Elena’s older sister Dora who has been diagnosed with depression and is hospitalized. Dora’s depression ends up affecting everyone around her, and the reader finds out how depression can affect relationships and families.

Elena and Dora have had a close bond and have told each other everything, but when Dora is diagnosed, their relationship is strained. While Dora is away, Elena has to deal with her parents arguing more and has to cope without Dora by her side. However, when Dora is discharged, life only seems to become more difficult. Elena is willing to do anything to help Dora, even if that means accepting more responsibility than she can handle, which in this case, might not be the best for either of them.

Black Box is a quick read at only 168 pages or so. The novel is able to describe depression in such a way that’s believable. There is nothing pretty about what happens in the story which makes it more realistic. Depression can be a hard illness to discuss, but I think Schumacher explains it well. While it may seem as though the novel never goes into a lot of detail about depression, the way Dora talks about her illness is key. Dora never gives Elena a clear description on how she feels and that makes it difficult for Elena to help in any way.

Not only does the reader see the changes in Elena and Dora’s relationship, but he/she also witnesses how the illness can affect an entire family. The parents are completely unprepared to help Dora through her depression, and they have a hard time understanding what she is going through. All the pressure eventually falls to Elena who is forced to make a tough decision.

The story is emotional and grim at times. I found the novel interesting, and I felt it was a good change of pace from all the usual young adult subjects like romance, dystopia, and paranormal. This is the first young adult book I have read that features depression as the main topic. While I really enjoyed the book, keep in mind that it’s a sad story, and it might not be for everyone. It’s definitely worth reading though, even if only to see a different side of young adult fiction.

My Rating: ★★★★

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