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Black Box    by Julie Schumacher order for
Black Box
by Julie Schumacher
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Elena and her sister have always been close despite their differences in personality. Elena is the quiet, steady one. At high school she only has Dora while Dora has friends everywhere. Dora is two years older and Elena has spent her life being the watchful little sister.

When Dora begins to come apart, Elena watches. She wants to help carry her burden but doesn't know how. Dora already goes to a therapist so their mother decides they should all go. Elena has nothing to say to her therapist until Dora is locked away at Lorning, the psychiatric floor of the city hospital. Even when Elena finally asks, the therapist doesn't give her the answers she needs.

Jimmy, a boy in her history class speaks to Elena about Dora. He knows Dora is in Lorning. Although Elena has been instructed not to talk about Dora's illness, everyone seems to know where Dora is. Elena hates being asked about her. She doesn't have answers to the well-intentioned questions.

Her parents won't discuss Dora and Elena is not allowed to visit her. All she can do is send coded notes. Jimmy offers to talk to her more about Lorning. At first Elena doesn't want to talk to this odd boy, but she soon realizes Jimmy is the only person she can ask about Lorning.

Elena's story is a riptide of emotions. Family feelings of shame. Dora's emotions when she is finally allowed to come home. And most of all Elena's emotions because she loves her sister and doesn't know what to do when she finds evidence of a relapse. Elena watches, sure she is supposed to save her sister, only she doesn't know how.

Schumacher has done an excellent job of showing the damage that mental illness can do, not just to the person who walks in the darkness of depression, but to those who love her.

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