In the fictional Shattered Dreams, Ariel is devastated by her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The story, which the author notes is based on her experience with a friend, traces Ariel’s early life, from her years trying to please an abusive mother to her years trying to please an abusive husband. When she is finally confined to a mental hospital and diagnosed, an understanding therapist helps her come to terms with her illness.
For all Dia Lynne Cardo’s good intentions to shed light on bipolar disorder, the reader is often left in the dark. Ariel is described in broad strokes, as if Cardo is afraid to give details. The book opens in a mental hospital, yet the reader doesn’t know what sent Ariel there: “The psychiatrist visited Ariel and told the nurse, ‘She is having a bipolar episode brought on by genetic and environmental factors … ’”
Because the story is just 62 pages long – Cardo includes 15 pages of her newest story as a teaser – the reader never gets to know Ariel. Cardo is prone to statements that tell rather than show the action. For example, Ariel’s family rejects her – “they told her she was dangerous to them and their children, that she was like a rabid animal and that she was crazy” – yet nowhere does the reader see any indication of these problems.
In the end, Ariel makes peace with her family’s rejection and chooses a life of quiet pleasures. Her therapist does a valiant job of helping Ariel understand that people act in the extreme when they’re around mental illness. “That is where the problem lies, people prefer to remain ignorant,” she says. That’s an important take-away message for a reader coping with the kind of problems the author attempts to elucidate, but in too many ways, Cardo falls short of illustrating that message.
Also available as an ebook.