Monday, February 6, 2017

A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL BY ERIC LINDSTROM - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom. Thanks so much to Hachette Books Canada for sending me an ARC of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


If you've been around for a little while, you will know that I am deeply fascinated by books on mental illness, especially those that are typically more severely symptomized, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I want to say that this was my first book with a character who had bipolar disorder - and I really enjoyed it.

The story follows sixteen-year-old Mel, a girl who, in the last year has lost her brother, had her parents divorce, moved to a new town a hundred miles from where she grew up, lost the friends she made when she first moved, oh, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Yup.

There is some background drama at the beginning of the book, which isn't really addressed until later, but for the most part, this story is about Mel's day to day life. How she copes, how she is feeling - some days are better than others, etc.

Obviously, a very central element of this book is Mel's mental illness. If you didn't know, bipolar disorder is hereditary, and we see Mel's aunt Joan's battle with her own cycles, as well as Mel's older brother, Nolan, who is dead but previously dealt with the same illness. I don't have bipolar disorder, nor do I know anyone close to me that struggles with it, so I can't really comment on the validity of the portrayal, but I think Lindstrom did a very good job of making Mel's life believable, but not romanticized; something we often see with depictions of mental illnesses.

I really appreciated the fact that the story begins after Mel has been diagnosed, I find a lot of mental illness books start before the character knows what is going on, and I thought this was a refreshing take. It also underlined the fact that those with illnesses such as Mel's can lead an extremely normal life. While it is acknowledged that medication doesn't work for everyone, Mel is consistent with taking hers, even when her aunt tries to tell her it clouds the 'real' Mel and that she should stop.

The novel also touches on others reactions to mental illnesses, showing both positive and negative ones, which I thought helped encompass real life reactions - some people are willing to help and are more understanding, and others see mental illness as something less than such. I appreciated that Lindstrom included criticisms because not everyone is as accepting as others.

In addition, Lindstrom tackles sexuality in this novel as well. Mel's friend Zumi is a closeted lesbian and Mel herself - during some periods of mania - engages in bisexual behaviour. Lindstrom does a good job explaining this as well through the psychiatrists, and really helped open my eyes, especially to a deeper understanding of bisexuality and the spectrum in which individuals can fall.

There was a little bit of romance within this book, but it definitely didn't take away from the deeper issues. It was just a way to lighten the mood a bit and create another layer of support for Mel.

There were some downsides to this book as well, I thought we could have done without some of the drama with Annie/Zumi/Connor, but I still enjoyed the story as a whole.

Overall, a great story about mental illness and self-acceptance.