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Black Box

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  1,513 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

(showing 1-30)
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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
Sep 11, 2008 Mandy rated it really liked it
Elana and her sister Dora have a typically atypical friendship -- meaning, that they share a secret code language, understand each other's fears and are inextricably linked as siblings and best friends, despite their differences in personality. However, Dora starts to slip away from Elana, as she falls deeper and deeper into depression, and is even hospitalized for it. As Elana tries to learn more about what-Dora's-feeling, she befriends a boy at school whose mother is a psychiatrist. The boy is ...more
Lacey Louwagie
Oct 01, 2008 Lacey Louwagie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who can deal with ambiguity
Shelves: youngadult
At first, I thought I wasn't going to like this book. The weird font / layout was sort of depressing, and I wondered if that was intentional, since this is a book about depression. It also felt a little too disembodied in the beginning; a lot of short scenes, but very little expository text to really "ground" those scenes. I thought it might turn out to be another book that romanticized sister-relationships and mental illness, the way "Skinny" by Ibi Kaslik does.

I was a little frustrated by the
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
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
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
4.0 stars. YA. Elena is a high-schooler who is quieter and steadier than her older sister, Dora. Although their personalities are miles apart they have always been close. So it comes as a surprise for Elena when Dora is hospitalized for depression. This story doesn't focus so much on Dora as it does on Elena: how Dora's depression and her family's tension affects her. Although her parents address the problem by sending everyone to therapy, they don't really grapple with the problem. No one at sc ...more
May 29, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it
I had forgotten how much I enjoy this author's voice. One reads this novel from the outside looking in....How does one handle illness when it is not your own...but perhaps even closer because it lives inside your sister, your friend, your other.....How does one live with an illness you can't see, you never understood was there, eating away at her, at you. Depression is never easy to know, never easy to see in another, it lives on and makes you feel helpless as you watch and try to help, try to f ...more
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,
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Nov 18, 2010 Brittany rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult, suicide
Elena and her sister Dora have always been close. Lately however, it seems like Dora isn't as open to her sister as she once was. When Dora sinks into a depression, Elena has no one to turn to. All of the people she knows at school are Dora's friends and they aren't really close. Then one day Jimmy Zenk, who failed a grade, starts talking to Elena about her sisters depression. He really seems to want to be there for her, but Elena is not sure how she feels about his presence. Elena wants her sis ...more
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.
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
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!
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
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.
Maddie Huefner
I read the book Black box by Julie Schumacher, it was a fiction book.
I thought it was a good book because it was a quick read but it kept me engaged the whole time and it was unlike anything I had read before. There were three main characters: Dora, Jimmy, and Elena. Elena and Dora are sisters, and they were really close until Dora was diagnosed with depression and had to go to a treatment center. Jimmy was their neighbor and had been to the same treatment center, so he was helpful with Dora's
May 30, 2013 Jane rated it it was ok
Keeping in mind that this book is in the "young adult" category, I think it's merit is that it's a reasonable and readable description of how depression can affect family life and how all members of the family can innocently make potentially tragic mistakes when coping with a depressed family member. Despite the author's claim that she was discouraged from writing the book, even by a close friend, it is hardly revealing or hard hitting. If the revelatory element is supposed to be that medication ...more
Noah W
Nov 09, 2013 Noah W rated it it was amazing
This is a really heavy book but I found it profoundly moving and insightful.

It’s probably very hard to write a book about depression (and how a family tries to cope with it) without coming across as overly sentimental, or preachy, or just unrelentingly bleak. But this book feels authentic and honest without falling into any of those traps. The depiction of Elena’s painful tangle of emotions, with regard to her older sister Dora who is suffering from depression, is all the more powerful because
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Oct 20, 2016 Parker rated it it was ok
It was bad
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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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