Monday, August 15, 2016
Book Review: "A Tragic Kind of Wonderful" by Eric Lindstrom
"I can't let anyone know what really happened, or what's wrong with me. 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."
For 16-year-old Mel Hannigan, life with bipolar disorder is a daily struggle, yet only her parents and her aunt, as well as one friend of her grandmother's, know what she is dealing with. During one particularly bleak period she stayed out of school and isolated herself from her closest friends, so they believed the lies of another friend, and ended their relationship with her. And although she's found new friends, she keeps them at arm's length, never letting them truly see the real Mel.
As Mel tries dealing with the re-emergence of emotions around her old friends, she meets someone new, someone she'd like to pursue a relationship with. But how can she let him in when she knows he won't like the real her, when if he knows the truth he'll treat her differently and always want to hover over her and wonder when her next cycle will be? As she tries to keep her emotions in check around relationships new and old, she also must come to terms with a tragedy from her past, and figure out exactly how she can live in its shadow.
A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is beautiful, heartbreaking, and so accurate in its portrayal of the many shades of bipolar disorder. Eric Lindstrom so perfectly captured Mel's voice through her ups and downs (the downs, which manifest them as ups, are eerie and so candidly portrayed), and how each person in her family deals with her condition. The book also captured the teenage attitude and dialogue without being overly precociousyou can hear these characters saying the things they do in the book without wondering if there really are 25-year-olds inside of them.
This is a book about realizing your problems are too big for only you to handle them, and the importance of trusting people and letting them in, but at the same time recognizes the value and necessity of self-protection. It's a book about letting ourselves feel, and not being afraid to admit how and when we're hurting. And this is an important book for those struggling to understand just what mental illness can do to a person.
I'm always loath to compare books to others, but I'll admit that this reminded me a bit of Jennifer Niven's fantastic All the Bright Places, but more for its honesty and its heart than anything else. They're two wholly different and equally superlative books. Read them both, because they're both tremendously exquisite.
NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!