A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

Happy Monday! Is that even a thing? Well, it should be, especially today, since I get to blathering on about one of my favorite books of 2017, and I just finished it last week. But I already know that other books are going to have to work hard to get on the level of A Tragic Kind of Wonderful.

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Title: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

Genre: YA

Publication date: February 7, 2017

Summary:

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?

Okay, there is a lot to unpack in this tiny summary.

So, Mel. Melly Mel Mel. Let’s start at the beginning. Her brother, Nolan, also had bipolar disorder, and he died, but we don’t really know how {at the start of the book}. They were incredibly close and Mel was traumatized by her brother’s death, as we with close siblings would be. In freshman year, she meets Anna, Zumi, and Connor, a trio of friends who bring her into the fold. Quick backstory: Anna appears to be Regina George’s crueler cousin, Zumi stills loves her fiercely, and Connor only wants the best for Zumi. In sophomore year, Mel has a breakdown and she falls out with the group, then Anna moves away to France a year and some months later, leaving Zumi and Connor confused, and Mel, with new friends, trying to help.

I think that’s a good starting point.

What really brought me into this book was the writing and how Eric Lindstrom brought Mel’s moods into words. This story is told from Mel’s point of view, and it was heartbreaking to read the chapters where she was down or totally flying. Those latter chapters involved one long sentence paragraphs that made little to no sense and bounced around from topic to topic. It was like being in Mel’s head, and while it was terrifying, it was so sad. You want to reach out and take her hand, try to calm her down, but there’s nothing you can do. You have to wait it out, like she has to, and you’re both riding the manic wave until she crashes.

The twists and turns of Mel’s friendships were also pretty interesting. At the beginning, we know that Mel has fallen out with Anna, Zumi, and Connor, but we don’t really know why. She says that she had a breakdown right before they stopped being friends, and you almost want to believe that it’s as simple as that, but it’s not. When the truth comes to light, my heart broke in a thousand pieces, and not just for Mel. I hurt for the people that she had hurt, for the people that had taken advantage of her, and for the fact that she wanted so bad to not hurt anyone.

But not all is completely bleak! There are people around Mel that make sure she stays on track and try to keep her smiling. Mel works at a nursing home, and there are plenty of characters there that keep Mel ticking. There’s Mr. Terrance Knight, a retired reverend who likes Mel to sing because he thinks it makes her happy. Also, Ms. Li, a newcomer to the scene who also brings in her grandson, David, the one boy that wants to see Mel as everything she is. Finally, there’s Dr. Piers Jordan, a retired psychiatrist who was friends with Mel’s grandmother and knows about Mel’s bipolar disorder. The nursing home seems to be where Mel feels most at home, or maybe it’s with HJ, Hurricane Joan, Mel’s aunt. Joan, who also has bipolar disorder, understands Mel, but doesn’t quite understand why she insists on taking medication, believing that the medicine weighs Mel down and makes her not herself.

Did I skip over David? Because I shouldn’t have. He’s basically perfect and does whatever he can to help Mel, but he doesn’t push her. He lets her unfold, because he does want to know 100% of her. He just doesn’t know how to go about it when her darkest side is revealed.

To sum this up, A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is a beautiful, tragic story of a girl who wants to have a normal life, but doesn’t understand that normal means nothing. Mel is one of those characters that’s going to stick to you, even after you turn the last page.

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