Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weekly Geeks, Black Box Q & A

Lenore, of Presenting Lenore answers my questions about Black Box by Julie Schumacher. Here's what publisher Random House has to say about this YA novel: 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 will do anything to help her sister get better and get their lives back to normal—even when the responsibility becomes too much to bear.

Worducopia: Black Box focuses on depression. Is it a depressing book to read?

Lenore: It does seem like it would be, but it’s not. It’s actually manages to be highly enlightening and informative without straying into “afterschool special” territory.

The book is told from the perspective of Elena, whose sister Dora is suffering from depression. Which of these girls would you say was the main character of the story?

Unquestionably Elena. Sure, Dora gets all the dramatic scenes but the novel spends more time on the effect Dora’s situation has on Elena and her parents. Elena also starts hanging out with a neighbor boy who claims his brother was treated for depression and warns her about the hospital treatment Dora is receiving and the "Black Box" (warning label) drugs she has been prescribed.

Would you recommend this book to young adults? How about to adults?

Elena is in 9th grade and the book is being marketed as YA. But I think the very honest way the author depicts depression and its effect on family dynamics is something that would appeal to adults too, whether or not they know someone affected by the disease.

Author Julie Schumacher states, "I hope -- whether you have experienced depression or not -- that you will recognize some part of who you are and feel acknowledged; that you will feel steadied by the imaginative solace a good book can provide." In your opinion, did she succeed?

I think she does. I have personally never known anyone with the kind of clinical depression Dora suffers but I can still relate to her in some way. When Elena asks Dora if depression is like sadness, Dora says no. She says, “I can’t describe [what it’s like]. I don’t know how.” I think we all have feelings sometimes that we either don’t how to describe or that we feel like we can’t share with anyone. And fiction is not only a great escape but also a reflection of the human condition.

Schumacher also states that someone she trusts told her to write the book if she needed to, but don't ever publish it. What do you think about this?

Since her main motivation was not to sensationalize but to destigmatize depression, I think she was right to publish it. I like her “You are not alone” message: it is definitely an important one, especially to those still in their tumultuous teen years.

Thanks, Lenore, for introducing me to a new book (which happens to be right up my own personal alley, by the way) and for being my Weekly Geek partner all the way from Paris this week!

1 comment:

  1. Nice interview! I knew I recognized Dave Boling's name, but I couldn't place why. Makes sense, now that I read he wrote for the Tacoma News Tribune -- my local paper for 15 years. You've definitely piqued my interest in the book!