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Black Box

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  1,507 Ratings  ·  232 Reviews
WHEN DORA, ELENA’S older sister, is diagnosed with depression and has to be admitted to the hospital, Elena can’t seem to make sense of their lives anymore. At school, the only people who acknowledge Elena are Dora’s friends and Jimmy Zenk—who failed at least one grade and wears black every day of the week. And at home, Elena’s parents keep arguing with each other. Elena w ...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published August 26th 2008 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (first published February 29th 2000)
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Community Reviews

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This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 05, 2008 Adriana rated it really liked it
This is a quick, short read, but it is very powerful. The story and the main character (Lena - short for Elena) draw you in immediately. She has an older sister, who has always been erratic, bubbly, moody, fun - the opposite of how Lena is. But they are very close. Then her sister gets so depressed that her parents intern her into a mental health facility. Lena doesn't know if by staying loyal to her sister, she is facilitating her destructive behavior, but she also just wants things to go back ...more
Brianna Moreno
Jan 14, 2016 Brianna Moreno rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michelle (Pink Polka Dot Books)
Elena's sister, Dora, is admitted to the psych ward of Lorning Hospital after an attempted suicide. There Elena thinks things will get fixed. What she doesn't realize is that this disease is just beginning to creep into their lives. Dora seems to get worse, not better. Elena wonders when Dora will be able to come home, and when she does if things will ever go back to normal. At school people seem to pity her, except Jimmy. Jimmy is an odd boy who lives near Elena. His brother was in Lorning, and ...more
Jan 31, 2010 Arlene rated it really liked it
Black Box by Schumacher is a moving portrayal of teenage depression and suicide. It’s an eye opener that will provide valuable insight on the signs of depression and the possible harmful side-effects of the medications doctors use to treat this condition.

The story is told from the perspective of Elena, whose sister Dora is suffering from clinical depression. My heart went out to Elena as she struggles to find a way to ‘save’ her sister. I was a tad bothered at her parents for not making a bette
Jennifer Wardrip
Dec 17, 2008 Jennifer Wardrip rated it really liked it
Reviewed by Amber Gibson for

BLACK BOX by Julie Schumacher is a heartfelt and moving portrait of teen depression. The author captures the pain of trying to rescue someone you love when you do not know how to save them.

Elena's otherwise typical teenage life is suddenly a lot more difficult when her older sister, Dora, is hospitalized for depression. There is nothing Elena wants more in the world than to see her sister happy again, back to her old self, when they used to play sill
Lisa Vegan
I really liked this book, but I also felt as though something was missing. This story is about a sixteen-year-old girl suffering from depression and how that affects her family. Perhaps it’s that it was told by a fourteen-year-old narrator who’s somewhat naïve. She provides an interesting perspective; I felt some understanding of depression was absent, but that made sense given who’s telling the story.

This is a spare little book and personally I’d have liked a more in depth narrative. However,
Nov 12, 2008 Lynn rated it really liked it
Elena looks up to her vivacious older sister Dora and the two girls have always been close. When Dora struggles with depression and is hospitalized, Elena feels that she has to be the one to watch out for Dora. It's a heavy responsibility for a 14-year-old girl especially when Dora begins to ditch school and spit out her meds.

This compelling story is told from Elena's perspective which allows a close-up exploration of the impact of depression on an entire family. The family dynamics ring true as
Bri G
Sep 09, 2016 Bri G rated it it was amazing
Black Box is such an amazing book, it's short but really proves a point. The book really opens one's eyes to the reality of depression and the downfall of the sickness. As reading I was really able to put myself into Elena's shoes and I really felt every emotion Elena felt. As you get further into the book you will begin having suspicions on many things. The one major downfall of the book is the plot twist is almost at the end of the book. I was so angry that the plot twist was so close to the ...more
Bella Bozied
Jun 28, 2016 Bella Bozied rated it it was amazing
Black Box is a book in the point of view of Elena, the younger sister of Dora, who is now dealing with depression. Elena is not quit sure what to do with Dora or what is happing to her or how it happened to her happy, cool sister. She knows Dora has a good life, so she doesn't understand why she is depressed. They are the closest of sisters, but Elena feels like they are being pulled apart by Dora's depression. Elena just wants to help her sister, but it isn't that easy when her parents wont let ...more
Olivia Girardi
One word to describe this book is Intriguing. Throughout the book there are many turning parts to every situation, making me want to read on and know what’s going to happen next.
Elena is a very quiet distant girl, then there is her sister Dora. Dora is loud, energetic and has many friends. Dora and Elena have always been close and talk to each other about everything. When Dora gets diagnosed with depression it surprises everyone. Dora then gets admitted to a hospital to help her, they are both
Intrigued by Romance
Jan 13, 2016 Intrigued by Romance rated it really liked it
I thought the book was a great read. It was interesting the way the story was told. Elena is a 14 year old girl whose sister Dora is battling depression. It tells the story how Elena was trying to cope with all the stress that comes with someone who is battling depression. Elena and Dora have always been really close when they were growing up, they even came up with a secret way of coding notes; so no one would be able to understand what they were talking about. Their parents knew that Dora was ...more
Dec 15, 2015 Jack rated it liked it
I thought this book was nice, I did enjoy reading it, but there were a few things I did not like about it. First of all, it was hard to understand even though it moved along slowly. I didn't grasp much of the major parts, and had to reread. There were strange sentences that didn't make sense, and items in the plot that were forgotten. There was something that was made to look like a super big deal, and then nothing ever came of it. This was annoying, because it gifted a sense of incompleteness. ...more
Apr 07, 2015 Tanya rated it it was amazing
This was a quick read, with a great story line of awareness of the guilt and shame that surrounds mental health issues both for those diagnosed with the condition as well as those close to them.

This particular story focuses on two sisters, and their relationship as one of them is hospitalized with depression, then relapses after she is discharged and is rehospitalized again. A great part of the story line details how the younger sister struggles between her loyalty to her sister and the decisio
I found myself laughing and commenting to this CD’s all the way through as this family deals with the affects of depression. I picked this set up at the library on a whim, loving the cover and the fact that it wasn’t too long. There were days I was anxious to get back into the car so I could pick this story back up and other times, I ended up sitting in the car long after I had arrived at my destination just so I could hear more of the novel. Some of the chapters are extremely short but thos
When Elena's older sister Dora is hospitalized for depression, everything changes. Extremely close with her sister, Elena has a difficult time dealing with her sister being locked away. With her parents fighting all the time and no one else around to help her, Elena turns to fellow classmate and neighbor Jimmy. As Elena becomes increasingly worried about her sister, will anyone remember to worry about her?

Black Box is a powerful story about depression and the difficulties with the treatment of t
Oct 13, 2014 Amy rated it it was ok
Elena's older sister Dora is acting strange. She cries, sleeps all the time, and is no longer interested in anything. Then Dora takes too many pills and ends up in a hospital. After 22 days, Dora returns home, but she's not better. She isn't taking her medication and makes Elena promise not to tell. But some promises aren't meant to be kept. Some promises can kill.

Most teenagers will have personal experiences with depression by the time they reach high school, either themselves, in their famili
Katlyn Null
Oct 14, 2014 Katlyn Null rated it it was amazing
I would really recommend this book for somebody to read because it's very interesting. I really enjoyed reading this book because it got my attention it's being addicted to chocolate I could not let this book go without reading it. This book is so simple to read it's not hard at all. I honestly thought I would never read a book like this.

A short description about this book is, this family and there are two sisters Dora is the oldest and Elena is the youngest. Dora goes into this deep depression
Dec 07, 2014 Terry rated it it was ok
Short chapters and simple language suggest that this might work with reluctant girls who feel a connection to mental illness. Beyond hoarding pills and timid teen romance, there's nothing here that middle school libraries couldn't handle. On the other hand, the characters are flat, the plot slow, and the conclusion unsatisfying.

So if you have a freshman who's sister is in and out of treatment, offer her this book. I don't see much readership beyond that small segment.
Jun 05, 2016 Amanda rated it liked it
I finished this book in about 2.5 hours. It was a quick easy read but I felt maybe a little to quick. I'm not sure if I liked the characters all that much. The relationship between Elena and Jimmy felt rushed and weird. I feel like there wasn't even a relationship between them. It was interesting reading from Elena's point of view. Someone watching someone going through depression and trying to understand it. I liked the build up of Elena's struggle and the ending.
Jul 09, 2015 Kaitlyn rated it it was ok
Black Box was...okay. It wasn't terrible, but it definitely wasn't my favorite. I couldn't connect to any of the characters, especially Elena. I understand she was under a lot of stress, but....Keeping the pills from her parents? Promising her sister something both of them knew she couldn't keep? I wouldn't be able to do that. Especially if I knew my own sister's life was in danger if I did so.

To me, she just seemed so...Blah. She had no emotion. She was just going through the motions.

And Jimmy,
Kelly Rios
Nov 29, 2015 Kelly Rios rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 24, 2015 Valerie rated it it was amazing
WHEN DORA, ELENA’S older sister, is diagnosed with depression and has to be admitted to the hospital, Elena can’t seem to make sense of their lives anymore. At school, the only people who acknowledge Elena are Dora’s friends and Jimmy Zenk—who failed at least one grade and wears blackevery day of the week. And at home, Elena’s parents keep arguing with each other. Elena will do anything to help her sister get better and get their lives back to normal—even when the responsibility becomes too much ...more
Feb 04, 2012 Kathleen rated it really liked it
A reasonably well-done book about a girl whose sister is hospitalized for depression. It's along the lines of LISA, BRIGHT AND DARK. It's good, but I didn't find it particularly original or anything. This is 3.5 stars rounded up.
Oct 27, 2011 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a powerful, honest read about teenage depression and the effects it has on the entire family. Loved Schumacher's voice--very similar to that of Laurie Halse Anderson. Don't skip the author's note at the end!
Jennifer LeBlanc
Feb 05, 2016 Jennifer LeBlanc rated it really liked it
4.2 out of 5 stars. This was an easy and quick read for me. I am usually one for fictional stories about magic or dystopian futures, but I also love getting sucked into good ole, people problem, fiction. This story spoke to me in a lot of ways about how to help people who need it even if they think they don't deserve it. The authors note at the end was inspiring. There were characteristics in some of the characters that I recognized from people I have met in my own life and it made me wonder abo ...more
Apr 29, 2011 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Black box is about 15 year old Elena who is struggling to deal with her sister Dora's Depression. At first it's just Dora having her usual mood swings but slowly it started getting worse and worse and after Dora trying to over dose she is admitted to the hospital where she stays for a few weeks. Meanwhile Elena is trying to deal with it but she doesnt really have any friends to go to so when she meets a boy names Jimmy he lets her vent her problems to him and he seems to have a whole lot of inf ...more
Jan 02, 2010 Terri rated it really liked it
Second reading - Julie Schumacher will be visiting our high school in a couple of weeks, so I wanted to reread the book in preparation for hearing her speak. Things that stood out this time around:

- denial
- hovering
- the need to care for oneself before being able to help others
- not seeing clues/warning signs until looking at things in retrospect
- the many ways in which family dynamics are impacted
- beautiful imagery (especially the black box and water imagery)
- guilt - feeling responsible
- sham
Apr 14, 2012 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
I actually did like this book. I didn't feel like there was much depth to it, but for the most part, it was a good story. It was about a girl named Elena, who's sister Dora was diagnosed with depression. Although my sister doesn't have depression, I could definitely understand why Elena tries so hard to help her sister get better. I'm very close to my sister, and the book really does show the relationship and love between two sisters. For the most part, I liked all of it. For some reason, the ch ...more
Brittney Musick
I devoured this book in a matter of a few short hours, but despite being a fairly short novel, it's covers some very tough and heavy subjects.

Though the main focus is Elena's older sister's battle with depression, there is so much more happening. Since Elena is the quiet one, content to let her outgoing sister lead, it's a very confusing time and situation for Elena. Also, her parents are trying to hard that they seem to fail to hear Elena when she tries to speak up.

The exploration of family lo
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Julie Schumacher grew up in Wilmington, Delaware and graduated from Oberlin College and Cornell University. Her first novel, The Body Is Water, was published by Soho Press in 1995 and was an ALA Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Minnesota Book Award.

More about Julie Schumacher...

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“Talking to a therapist, I thought, was like taking your clothes off and then taking your skin off, and then having the other person say, "Would you mind opening up your rib cage so that we can start?” 36 likes
“A drowning person doesn't rescue herself.” 12 likes
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