Wednesday, 15 February 2017

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

Author: Eric Lindstrom
Genre: Teen, Contemporary Fiction
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
First Published: February 14, 2017
First Line: "My big brother Nolan, used to say everyone has a superpower."

Book Description from GoodReadsFor 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?

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: I feel so torn about this book.  I enjoyed some aspects and others I struggled with so much that I almost gave up on the whole thing. 

Unfortunately, I found the bulk of the story slow-going with the focus being on teenage angst, friendship and relationships vying for top billing instead of mental illness. It isn't until two-thirds of the way through the book (when I had almost given up) that I finally could sink my teeth into the story. It's at this point that Lindstrom gets to the heart of Mel's struggle with bipolar disorder and the results are vivid and emotional.  From the intensity of her feelings, to her loss of control, delusions and finally her breakdown readers will witness the heart-breaking struggle within Mel and the enormous stress she is under to keep it hidden from people around her.  

One of my issue with the book is that there was too much angst and not enough depth or character development. There is a mixed bag of secondary characters with the residents of the nursing home where Mel works being my favourites with their sass, personality and heart. Some of the teenagers by comparison (Declan and Holly, I'm looking at you) faded so much into the background that they were easily forgettable. 

The other issue I had was that there was too much telling and not enough showing. I wanted to witness the connection or disconnection between Annie, Connor, Zumi and Mel so I could better understand Mel's hesitation to inform her friends of her mental illness.  Similarly, the romance happened too quickly, felt forced and too good to be true considering all the issues and drama that occur in their brief relationship. Unfortunately, I just wasn't invested in these relationships.

Also, when it finally came down to the big reveal about the reason for the rift between Zumi, Connor and Mel, the result was disappointing for something that was alluded to many times. I would have preferred a more in-depth look at other relationships - namely, Mel's relationship with her brother.  Her bond with him underlies much of the book yet is barely talked about. Or even a look at Mel's mother and how she has handled having so much mental illness within her family. 

It sounds like I wasn't a fan of this book and for a chunk of it I wasn't. But I will take away a better understanding of bipolar disorder.  This went from a book I almost gave up on to one that became a decent read due to the vivid and honest look at Mel's illness and her heartbreaking struggle to be seen as 'normal'.  While this wasn't a home run for me I applaud the author for giving his readers a better insight into the mental health of teens. 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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