Black Box
Julie Schumacher
ISBN 978-0-385-73542-1
Delacorte, 2008
Grades 9 to 12
Realistic Fiction

Elena wishes she could access the black box inside her hospitalized older sister.


Elena has always taken care of her big sister Dora. Her job is made more difficult by Dora’s hospitalization after a suicide attempt. Rather than getting better after her hospitalization, medication, and therapy, Dora’s mental state progressively declines. Elena is at a loss. Dora makes her swear her loyalty, forbidding Dora from telling their parents when she skips her meds or hordes pills. Dora’s condition continues to deteriorate and she attempts suicide again.


Elegant and moving. Schumacher employs metaphor beautifully.

Curriculum Ties:

Use in metaphor studies.



Have challengers read the entire book and refer them to the great number of accolades received by Black Box.

Selection Rationale:

“Schumacher beautifully conveys Elena’s loneliness and guilt as she tries to protect her sister without betraying her, as well as the emotional release she experiences upon finding someone to trust with her own feelings. The spare prose is loaded with small, revealing details of the relationships that surround Elena and how they change through Dora’s illness. This novel is a quick read, but it will leave a lasting and ultimately hopeful impression.” – Booklist

“Fittingly, the novel doesn’t resolve neatly; although it ends on a note of healing and hope, its strength is in the way it allows readers to see the messy, ugly complexities of mental illness and witness the collateral damage it wreaks on the entire family.” – Kirkus

About the Author:

Julie Schumacher is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota. Her first short story was included in Best American Short Stories in 1983. She writes for both adults and younger readers.