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.
Description taken from Goodreads.
A Tragic Kind of Wonderful can be summed up by it’s title. All in all, it’s a tragic kind of wonderful, the slightly better version of Emma Wunsch’s The Movie Version. There’s a half-baked romance, lots of drugs, lots of drinking, lots of hinting at not-so-subtle mental illness. Everything is more easily digestible, from beginning to end, and there were parts that were beautifully written (especially the beginning), but the story didn’t speak to me. If you want stories about mental illness where things actually happen, then this book isn’t for you.
Other than the fact that the plot left something to be desired, the book wasn’t bad. The elements were all there. In theory, it’s very much like All the Bright Places, except missing certain crucial elements that can’t be taught or intentionally put in the story. Within the book, I could never truly relate to Mel and the struggles that she faced. Despite all of that, it was good to read about mental illness and Lindstrom’s take on it. I haven’t read about siblings who both have mental illnesses before, and there were parts of the story that were both unique and extremely promising. I wish that there was more about Mel and her brother, and that the entire book was written the way that the prologue was.
And then there was the entirely separate issue of the format. My love for art in novels usually extends as far as Challenger Deep, where there were a few illustrations and half of the story was a reflection of the protagonist’s mental state. The little chapter beginnings did nothing for me, and I only fully understood them when I read about what they meant in someone else’s review.
All in all, I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you’re specifically looking into books about bipolar disorder. There are many books about mental illness out there right now, and if you’re only going to read one, it shouldn’t be this one. Tamara Ireland Stone’s Every Last Word and Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places are very close to this one, and I would recommend those instead.
With Eric Lindstrom’s books, I’m always left with the impression that if things were tweaked just a little bit, they could be perfect for me, but alas. Maybe next time. 1.5 stars.