May 16, 2012

Review: A Blue So Dark

By: Holly Schindler
Published:May 2010 by Flux
Format: Paperback, 266 pages
First Reviewed:August 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
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All I see are murky depths that could swallow me whole.

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.

Rating: 5/5

I was excited to read this book for three reasons: 1) I thoroughly enjoyed Schindler's other book (which is actually her second; this is her debut). 2) The cover feels so awesome. I know, I know, because of the's true. And 3) The premise seemed like one I would love and one that's different from other YA books. And I'm happy to report this book did not let me down.

Dear Flux: Either get new editors or train your current ones to spot the things that take away from brillant writing. Thanks. Sincerely, Me.

Rude, I know, but I'm serious. After reading through this entire book, I've become convinced that the few nitpicks I have could have been easily avoided if the flippin' editor(s) would have been paying attention. What are the nitpicks, you ask? Well, strangely, they were mostly in the beginning. The excessive italics usage, "you knows," and some repetitive words/phrases/information. But, honestly, that's all I got annoyed with.

Schindler's writing is the kind of writing I'm extremely jealous of. She has such a natural ability at creating visuals in one's head of things as simple as a facial expression or a person's stance. There were times where I was literally pausing in the story just to admire the writing. She gave Aura a very solid and relatable voice (though I wish she would have dropped the conversational tones with the reader so much; I still blame the editors for that, though). Even though I loved her writing in Playing Hurt, her second novel, I think I actually enjoyed it more in this. Great style, great voice, great descriptive prose that not only gave me amazing visual and feel, but that also kept to the story and character. Absolutely loved the writing. Editors--we need to have a word. :)

For the most part, I absolutely loved Aura, but there were times--again, mostly in the beginning--where I felt she was a bit inconsistent. Like, I wasn't sure if she was a teeny-bopper, "oh a boy looked at me!" type of girl or one who's had to grow up way too fast and is broken, strong, and a hormonal teenager all at once. In the majority of the book, she was the latter, which Schindler captured perfectly, but there was the times where I started thinking she was the type I didn't really care for.

However, that aside, Aura was beautifully crafted. Schindler put so much emotion and feeling into this character, and that seeped off the page. I felt for her, I even felt like I was her at points she was so relatable. Schindler made us see the world through her eyes--through the eyes of a creative artist who's afraid she's going to go crazy like her mother and who has way too much on her shoulders, but still keeps truckin' through. Loved her!

And can I tell you how excited I am not to have to list a love interest as the other main character? Because I am. Let me talk about Aura's mother. A schizophrenic who's an amazing artist, but who's finally lost control of reality. Just thinking about pulling off a character like that makes my head hurt, as I know about schizophrenics (my mother works with people with mental illnesses). Schindler pulled off Grace so well. All thoughts and actions and reactions were real and perfect, the highs and lows and sudden episodes developed to perfection.

The other characters were great as well. Since this mainly centers around the mother and daughter, we don't get too much of other characters. However, we got full personalities from each of them and I loved them all. Nell was one of my favorite characters, and Janny, a teen mom and Aura's best friend, wasn't in any way stereotypical. She made a mistake, knew it, and took on the responsibility for herself. All characters were developed extremely well, and I find myself, yet again, jealous of Schindler. Fantastic.

A girl with a schizophrenic mother. A broken girl with a schizophrenic mother. A broken girl with a schizophrenic mother, a deadbeat dad, a best friend who's a teen mom with her own problems, and with a life she only wants to escape for a second, a minute, an hour. A girl who doesn't seem to have an ounce of hope in her life anymore. That type of book sounds like one people just can't pull off. Like one that is not, in any way possible, because there's just nothing "uplifting" about it. Right? Well, that's what I thought. Schindler, though, is one of the few authors who pulled this off. I was left feeling hope and love, and in between I felt everything from sadness to anger.

I absolutely loved the fact that Schindler didn't need a boy to make this book. Yes, there is a love interest, but he's an innocent addition that only brings light to the book, never, ever straying from the main plotline. Not once. The focus stayed on Aura and her mother, which is a risk with YA books now-a-days, since apparently everything has to be on the teenager and her high school love crushes. *sarcasm*

Anyway, this book was breath-taking, in all honestly. I loved it. The pacing was perfect, the symbolism added to the beauty, and everything Aura did brought me further into the story. I was with her, heart racing when she worried, heart aching when hers did, and I was rooting for something good to happen, for someone to help Aura and make her see the ocean floor in those murky waters.

In the beginning, I did think for a second that I wasn't going to care for the book. This is because there's a bit of cussing from a boy Aura sees hurt himself, and I thought it was just going to be another YA romance. But it wasn't, and I loved the bits Schindler added in with Jeremy. And I loved, loved, loved the creativity aspects and the framing.

Such a wonderful, refreshing read that had my heart aching and my emotions running as wild as the main character's. With beautiful, imaginative writing, I couldn't put this book down. It was a realistic depiction of how someone may live with a schizophrenic mother and a life in tangles all over the place. I absolutely adored the characters and instead of leaving me depressed, it left me with a warm feeling in my heart and a reminder to always draw what you see. Deep inside yourself, you can see the ocean floor.

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