Reading level: Young Adult
Page count: 288
Pub date: May 1, 2010
Quick disclaimer: this isn't really my type of book. I'm not usually into emotional sagas about illness, even in YA lit (I despised My Sister's Keeper, for example). However, I read a really great review of this book by Amanda at Another Book Junkie, so when I saw it at my local library I decided to put the past behind me and give it a try.
I'm glad I did. The book wasn't exactly a page turner compared to a lot of the things I've been reading lately, but it did hold my attention. It well written, carefully thought out, and vividly, at times painfully, realistic. The main character, Aura, is a typical 21st century high schooler in a lot of ways. She has an awkward crush on a skater dude; she's sarcastic (but not over the top with her snark), mildly anti-establishment, parents are divorced, etc. But that's where her normalcy ends.
Aura's mother happens to be stark raving mad. She is schizophrenic and has "episodes" where she tries to burn the house down because "the walls are crying" and it's too noisy. And Aura is her sole caretaker, now that her formerly artsy, free-spirited father has remarried a blond bimbo, produced a new daughter, and become an insurance salesman who wants nothing to do with his old family. Added to the difficulty of caring for her crazy mom, Aura is also paranoid that her own sanity is a ticking time bomb, that she's destined to inherit her mother's schizophrenia, especially if she allows herself to give in to her passion for painting and poetry.
Aura's best (and only) friend, formerly fun-loving, beautiful, bubbly & boy crazy, got knocked up and is now a single mother. Both Aura and her friend are dealing with ridiculously difficult things and have practically no one to help them through it. But both of them show believable growth through the course of the novel. Aura starts off as scared, stubborn, and selfish, but by the end she exhibits impressive strength, flexibility, and bravery. The ending, while satisfying, does not set the scene for a squeaky clean, happy ever after for any of the characters, and I liked that. The romance in the story was cute, but definitely not the focus. I thought that might disappoint me, but actually I found it refreshing to read a YA book where the sole concern of the protagonist was something other than finding her soul mate.
So, as I said, I'm not a huge fan of this type of book in general, but A Blue So Dark was definitely a mark above the norm.