Black Box
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Black Box

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  1,157 ratings  ·  188 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 blackevery day of the week. And at home, Elena’s parents keep arguing with each other. Elena wi...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published August 26th 2008 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (first published February 29th 2000)
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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
Michelle (Pink Polka Dot Book Blog)
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
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...more
Jennifer Wardrip
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...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,...more
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...more
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.
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
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...more
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...more
A quick and engrossing read, and a devastating look at depression. However, I felt the book was trying to juggle a little too much at times. Not only is there Dora's depression, but there's how her illness affects the family relationships, and then for large parts of the book it seems to be trying to turn into a conspiracy book as Elena's friend, Jimmy, hints that the hospital Dora is at is horrible and potentially abusive. When even Dora and Elena's father noticed that Dora was extremely drugge...more
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
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
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...more
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
When 14-year-old Elena's older sister Dora is hospitalized for depression, everyone in the family struggles to cope in different ways. Told through Elena's eyes, Blackbox is a moving, engrossing read about a dysfunctional family and the stigma of a mental illness that is often not well understood. I finished this book over the course of two sittings in one morning - which is unusual for me. A few parts of the plot felt unrealistic to me, but overall the author does a good job of conveying the im...more
Jan 26, 2010 Alison rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: ya
This was such an amazing book! It was great to read alongside Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls. I read this in only about 2-3 hours, but it was very powerful. This is a perfect example of how powerful and thought-provoking a first-person narrative can be.

In the acknowledgments, the author described how some people didn't want her to publish this novel because of the subject matter. I could not disagree more. This isn't a situation I know of firsthand, but I really believe that nothing comes...more
Noah W
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...more
I ♥ Luke Castellan *Alexa*
May 07, 2008 I ♥ Luke Castellan *Alexa* rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone with Family Problems
This was a very interesting book because of the set-up. A normal family in a suburb. But when their daughter, Dora, goes into depression, that all changes. Dora becomes a vacant body, no feelings or anything. Now only her sister, Elena, can save her from total loss of herself. This is a dramatic story about a family's hardships and learning to deal with what is going on in your life, and how to fix it.
Elena is the main character in this story, telling it in 1st person. It seems amazing how she...more
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
Now that I am finished reading this book that explores what depression does to a family when older sister Dora is diagnosed with this disease. Elena, fourteen and totally different from Dora, wants her sister to get well. Her parents are arguing in the kitchen every night after Dora is admitted to the local hospital's psych wing. In school, even though Elena can't discuss what is happenening to Dora, everyone knows and weird Jimmy Zenk tells Elena about his brother's recovery from mental problem...more
Lacey Louwagie
Oct 01, 2008 Lacey Louwagie rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
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
Sally Kruger
Elena is watching the self-destruction of her older sister Dora. Dora is caught in the clutches of depression. When Dora refuses to get out of bed and doesn't respond to the treatment her parents have tried to provide, it is decided she should enter an inpatient program at a local hospital.

The girls' parents want the best for Dora, but at the same time they want to shelter Elena. Not knowing what is going on frustrates Elena. She wants to communicate with Dora and offer her support, but she is k...more
Black Box is a young adult novel that will appeal to both teens and adults. Julie Schumacher writes about a 16-year-old girl, Dora, who is suffering from depression and is admitted to the hospital psychiatric ward. The book is told from the point of view of Dora's 14-year-old sister, Elena, whose loyalty to her older sister causes her great pain.

Schumacher's writing pulled me in from the first page and dropped me right in the scene. It felt as though I really could hear the girl in the psychiatr...more
This was a quick read but very powerful. This book is something that people who have or known someone with depression. This was very powerful and it made me think about things a lot. It shows how families can bend and nearly break at a bad time but in the end prevail
Summary: When her sixteen-year-old sister is hospitalized for depression and her parents want to keep it a secret, fourteen-year-old Elena tries to cope with her own anxiety and feelings of guilt that she is determined to conceal from outsiders.

My Review: Fabulous. Deeply honest and yet accessible to teen readers. The reality based family dynamics and peer relationships for this young teen ring true with every conversation, and every exchange. The descriptions place the reader right where the te...more
Elena's sister Dora is in the hospital after a suicide attempt. Elena is sure that Dora will be okay. She has vowed to save Dora, apparently on her own since her parents don't listen to her. But depression makes Dora isolated, and Elena turns to her friend Jimmy from school for help. Elena tells Jimmy how Dora isn't taking her meds, how she's skipping class.

Emotionally, I felt how it would be for a sister to watch a sister who she thought she knew change. I liked the relationship between Elena...more
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