In the vein of It’s Kind of a Funny Story and All the Bright Places, comes a captivating, immersive exploration of life with mental illness.
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.
You know what I wish we all talked about more? I wish we talked about mental disorders. There’s this stigma around those who’s minds spark up differently that someone else’s, and it seems to me that this maybe because of lack of understanding. The main character of A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL mentioned this more than one.
She said she is not like her Aunt, or like her brother– even if her mood wanes and waxes more similarly resembling her brother’s than her Aunts. It’s important to recognize that no one person’s symptoms are exactly like the other. This books does a slow reveal on just about everything, and for this, well, it was glorious.
What do I mean by the slow reveal? Everything—relationships and lives and heartbreak—in this book is riddled in secrets, may that be conscious or otherwise. Everything—those relationships and lives and heartbreaks—were something to behold. It is messy, and scary, and wrenched at the strings of my still-beating heart. It broke it. A thousand times over. That is another thing this books does well. I saw it in NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST too. Obstacles. Facing life with them. People in your life facing them with you, but not sure how to broach them.
This book is about bipolar disorder, and it is about Mel Hannigan. It’s how bipolar disorder, or any mental illness for that matter, is not a One Size Fits All Deal. I mean, no one has the same brain as another person, so why would how that brain work be any different?
A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL is also about friendship. I think Lindstrom approached friendship is a really cool way. We sort of have the Before friends and then we have the After friends. Before and After the bipolar disorder made itself known, I mean. The reader gets to see how the Before friendships worked, how they contributed to making Mel the darling, self-conscious human she is today. The After friendships are the protective sort.
After the fall-out. After the deception, and the lies, and the low-key betrayal. After the mistakes, and the fear.
One other part of the book that I loved besides the way mental illness was approached along side different kinds of friendship was (I know; I know) the romance. It wasn’t hot and heavy; this guy is going to save me. He isn’t. I personally believe that people are an important aspect in allowing one to come to the realization that they are worth saving. People help to bring to light the irrationality of some rationalizations. This is what David is, to a certain extent. He’s also someone who did not see the Before or the After. He’s a fresh set of eyes who sees Mel as nothing more than she is in the moment.
So what do we have? Variations of friendship. An approach to mental illness that shows that, like friendship, these things vary. And, finally, we have Mel trudging through her own set of rough waters. All these different things make this book what it is. What is it? Well, it’s fantastic, and tragic, and wonderful.