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?
In A Tragic Kind of Wonderful, Eric Lindstrom, author of the critically acclaimed Not If I See You First, examines the fear that keeps us from exposing our true selves, and the courage it takes to be loved for who we really are.
For those of you who are long-time readers, you’ll know that my passion in life is mental health. So when I was given the opportunity to read and review a book that deals with a serious mental health condition, I jumped on it!
I want to start off by saying that I have never personally struggled with bipolar disorder so I cannot speak to the accuracy of the book’s portrayal of the disorder. With that being said, a quick scroll through the growing number of reviews on Goodreads reveals that many individuals who have read the book and who struggle with bipolar disorder found it to be accurate and realistic in the depictions of the illness. While this may not be such an important detail for people who are just in it for a good story (which you will definitely get, but more on that later!) it is extremely important to me because accurate media content helps to end stigma and raise awareness about mental health. For this accomplishment alone I think the book deserves 5 starts.
Moving on to the the storyline itself, I found this book to be engaging and heartbreaking at the same time. The main character, Mel, deals with so much isolation and fears of abandonment and the sadness involved in this experience is so authentic. On top of this, Mel goes through a tremendous amount of family turmoil and loss which makes her story that much more heartbreaking (but in the interest of remaining spoiler-free, you’ll have to read the book to learn more about that particular detail).
Another element of the story which really stands out is Mel’s inability to trust. She distances herself from her friends at school and as the reader it felt so easy to empathize with this distrust and understand why she would feel that way. Recently being diagnosed with bipolar disorder would be hard enough to deal with on it’s own without adding in all of the additional life changes that Mel is facing. Throughout the entirety of the book I found myself feeling a rollercoaster of emotions from extreme sadness to compassion to anger at the unfairness of Mel having to go through so much on her own. Mel felt so REAL to me. I didn’t feel as though I was reading a work of fiction; I felt as though I was looking through a window into the life of a real girl going through real pain, and for me this felt like a very helpless experience. I wanted to reach out and help her!
With all of that being said, I think it’s safe to say that I loved this book. It is a fast-paced story full of ups and downs; yet, somehow Mel manages to make it through. I found this book to be inspiring and educational at the same time which is not an easy feat to accomplish. If you’re looking for a good book to learn about bipolar disorder, or if you’re looking for a place to feel understood as someone going through the disorder I would highly recommend reading A Tragic Kind of Wonderful. Eric Lindstrom does a magnificent job of dealing with tough issues in a realistic and powerful way that left me feeling such strong emotions!
My overall rating: 5 stars.
Thanks for reading!
Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reader review. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.