Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who Does Depression Hurt? Everyone.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Losing her mother was hard enough, but now Serena's lost her father as well. At least that's how it feels. Ever since the car accident that killed his wife, Michael Shaw's been overcome by the "blue," so sad he won't leave the house, change out of his pajamas, eat, or work on the drawings he creates for his job as a freelance picture book illustrator. Serena needs him to snap out of it. And fast. The 7th grader's got enough going on with schoolwork, play practice, friend drama, and a cute boy who's finally showing some interest in her. She doesn't need the added burdens of laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, housework, watching her little brother, and making excuses for her father. Serena's been carrying it all for eighteen months; she's not sure how much longer she can take it.

Knowing one wrong move could land her and her brother in foster care, Serena's desperate to hold her world together. But as her father slides deeper down into the pit of his depression, keeping up appearances becomes harder and harder. She can't ask anyone for help, but she can't hold things together for much longer. It's only a matter of time before someone figures out her dad's not right. Can she figure out a way to cure him before it's too late? Or will the "blue" destroy the only family she's got left?

Even though I hate the idea of children being forced into adult roles because of circumstances beyond their control, I'm always drawn to these kinds of stories, be they real or fictional. The strength and resiliency of children never ceases to amaze and inspire me. I was especially excited, then, to read Silhouetted by the Blue, a new middle grade novel by Traci L. Jones, since it's a survival against-all-odds story featuring an African-American tween. It's a realistic portrayal of depression and the toll it can take on not only the sufferer, but also on his family. Serena's take on it all is an honest one - she feels alternately responsible, resentful and guilty. The story's got its doom and gloom, for sure, but there are some light, funny moments as well. While I didn't love the book quite as much as I wanted to, I still think it's an important story. It's timely, relevant, and a tale that will likely hit close to home for both children and adults.

(Readalikes: Reminded me a little of What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for mild language and some intense situations

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Silhouetted by the Blue from the generous folks at Farrar Straus Giroux. Thank you!

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