Title: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful
Author: Eric Lindstrom
Genre: Contemporary YA
Format: Paperback ARC; thank you Hachette Book Group!
Description (Source: Amazon):
For sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan, bipolar disorder makes life unpredictable. Her latest struggle is balancing her growing feelings in a new relationship with her instinct to keep everyone at arm’s length. And when a former friend confronts Mel with the truth about the way their relationship ended, deeply buried secrets threaten to come out and upend her shaky equilibrium.
As the walls of Mel’s compartmentalized world crumble, she fears the worst–that her friends will abandon her if they learn the truth about what she’s been hiding. Can Mel bring herself to risk everything to find out?”
It took me a while to start writing this review because I honestly didn’t know where to start. This review might be a little all over the place too, so I’ll go ahead and apologize in advance for that.
Plot: The book is told in the present time and in flashbacks from Mel Hannigan, a 16 year old girl who has been diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder. The first chapter is a flashback to Mel and her older brother, Nolan, living one of the happiest and worst days of Mel’s life. The flashback ends before we see what happened, but we know it’s tragic and terrible. We know Mel’s world fell apart around her after the tragedy.
More flashbacks tell the story of a big event that happened between Mel and three of her closest friends (Annie, Zumi, and Conner). For most of the story the reader is in the dark about what happened, but is aware that Mel’s bipolar disorder disorder is likely behind the event.
Present day Mel is living in constant fear that her secret diagnosis will get out to her friends in school. The reader follows Mel as she tries to navigate school, friends, work, therapy, her family, and first love.
I wasn’t really sick, at least not in the way where you eventually get better or die. I just found out my brain was poorly designed. It won’t kill me, but I can’t get right again since I was never right in the first place. I was born with faulty parts. My brain just didn’t turn them on till I was a teenager…
I can’t bear the thought of how they’d look at me, and treat me, if they knew how many pills I take every morning just to act more or less like everybody else.”
While it is a story of friendship, family, and love, Mel’s bipolar disorder is it’s own story and character. Mel journals her mood before every chapter, and we find out about 10% into the book what each of the moods mean. If you don’t want this spoiled stop NOW. It’s not really a spoiler though, as you find out very early in the book. The categories Mel uses: Hamster (Head), Hummingbird (Heart), Hammerhead (Health, but mostly pertaining to her period), Hanniganimal (Mood). I really liked the list that started every chapter because I think it gives readers a peek inside Mel’s mind to more easily understand her actions, especially when she becomes manic.
There is a lot of narrative exposition, as is to be expected when the reader needs to be in Mel’s head to understand her. However, I think Lindstrom does a great job using dialogue to balance the story out. The narrative can seem a little frantic, choppy, unorganized, hard to follow, and almost stream of consciousness-like at some points, but fits with Mel’s state of mind.
I have Bipolar Disorder…That’s why I’m here. Because now everybody knows I’m someone to treat differently. To keep an eye on. Can’t relax around. Can’t be themselves with. High maintenance.”
How bipolar disorder was represented was important for me. As I have stated before, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 2 1/2 years ago. People with mood disorders fall on a wide spectrum that can make some more anxious than depressed, more angry than sad, some experience dysphoria rather than euphoria when in a manic episode, etc. It’s nice to finally see a character who doesn’t fall into the “angry, violent, and moody” category. While this certainly is what some people struggle with, it does not fit all people who have bipolar disorder. Mel is moody, but she is not violent or aggressive. Mel is more likely to self-harm due to neglect of her own body than to harm someone else. There are two other characters in the story that have bipolar disorder as well, so the reader is exposed to a few different varieties of moods/impulses.
I’ll always be a ticking time bomb to everyone. Seeing the fear on [his] face reminded me of how I was right to hide my diagnosis. “
Finding out what happened to Nolan was tragic. You knew it was going to sad from the very first chapter, but actually reading the horrific details were heartbreaking.
The ending was satisfying. Everyone’s issues were not wrapped up in pretty bow. Mel will have many of the same struggles for the rest of her life, but she has learned the value of having allies in her corner and people she can trust to help her when she needs it.
What I didn’t like:
– Ugh Zumi annoyed me. We were told that she was was this amazing friend, but were never shown. As far as I am concerned, Zumi was a self-righteous, self absorbed bitch. #sorrynotsorry. That part felt a little forced to me. I could have done without it, as it distracted from Mel’s own story too much. I found myself wanting to skim scenes with her in it.
– I definitely recommend the book. It’s not very long, moves quickly, and gives an alternate view of bipolar disorder than many are used to.