title: Silhouetted by the Blue
author: Traci L. Jones
date: Farrar Straus Giroux; 2011
main character: Serena Shaw
reading level 4.6
Serena is having a rough 7th grade year. Her father has once again been taken over by what Serena refers to as ‘the blue’ which is really a deep fit of depression. Her mother could get him to take his medicine or get him to the doctor, but she’s passed away. Henry, her younger brother is of no help as he’s really just trying to make sense of the world around him. Serena charges herself with running the house, caring for Henry and doing her schoolwork. Her beautiful singing voice gets her a part in the schools production of ‘The Wiz’ and it’s here where Serena is able to relax and be herself. Well, that is after she figures out how to get Henry cared for after school.
Serena has many good friends however, she doesn’t want them to know what’s going on at home. Elijah, one of Serena’s classmates, has a romantic interest in her. He reads just a bit too perfect and a little too mature for his age.
Serena does eventually turn to her uncle for help with her father. He seems to have a very close relationship with his brother and his reaction doesn’t seem to fit this relationship. I wondered why Serena didn’t call him sooner or why she didn’t turn to others for help.
How do you get middle schoolers to understand depression? Jones let’s readers know what Serena’s father was like when he was well and mentions him to have had episodes before. Young readers might begin to think this man just needed Serena, or someone, to firmly push him to stop being so lazy or sad about his wife but Jones takes her readers down a path that allows them to become familiar with this illness, its symptoms and treatment without ever getting clinical. It does become clear that he’s got a real problem and needs serious treatment to get well.
Addressing such a tough topic for 6th through 8thgrade readers isn’t easy, but Jones manages to do it well.
Traci L. Jones grew up in Denver, Colorado in the very same house in which she now lives with her husband and their four children. She truly enjoys writing about middle school years saying, “I love writing for young teens. It is such a hectic, wonderful, turbulent time in life. Full of promise and full of misery. A time to laugh while crying.” This is her third book for middle school readers.