Danc­ing in the Dark

Shoshana Mael

  • Review
By – November 7, 2014

Writ­ten by a first-time nov­el­ist, this is a grip­ping young adult nov­el deal­ing with a mother’s men­tal ill­ness and its trag­ic impact on a fam­i­ly. Rik­ki, a junior in an all-girls high school, is an excel­lent stu­dent and tal­ent­ed dancer and chore­o­g­ra­ph­er with many friends. No one but her beloved old­er sis­ter, Dani­ella, has any idea of their hor­ren­dous home sit­u­a­tion. Their artis­tic moth­er had been pre­vi­ous­ly iden­ti­fied as bi-polar, and when she is on med­ica­tion, her con­di­tion is well con­trolled. When she is off med­ica­tion, her behav­ior makes her dan­ger­ous to her­self and her fam­i­ly. The girls try very hard to cope and to pro­tect their broth­er, and they expend a lot of ener­gy cov­er­ing up the real­i­ties of their lives. Things spin out of con­trol and their lives shat­ter beyond their abil­i­ties to han­dle. Rikki’s emo­tion­al sta­bil­i­ty is threat­ened so severe­ly that she finds it dif­fi­cult to con­cen­trate in school or to keep up rela­tion­ships even with close friends; in addi­tion she is unable to pray with the oth­er girls or on her own. The girls are for­tu­nate to have com­pe­tent and car­ing adults in school who inter­vene to help them.

Writ­ten in an extreme­ly com­pelling style by a social work­er and deal­ing with dif­fi­cult real-life issues, this is painful read­ing. The author’s stat­ed goal is to bring a new lev­el of emo­tion­al inten­si­ty to young adult Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture.” The sis­ters are clear­ly Ortho­dox and live in an Ortho­dox world, but the con­tent is universal.

Shelly Feit has an M.L.S. and a Sixth-year Spe­cial­ist’s Cer­tifi­cate in infor­ma­tion sci­ence. She is the library direc­tor and media spe­cial­ist at the Mori­ah School in Engle­wood, NJ.

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