A couple of weeks back I received this book from Jonathan Ball Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I haven’t heard much about A Tragic Kind of Wonderful before receiving it, but as soon as I opened the package I’ve been seeing it in every book store I step into.
The only thing I knew before reading this book was that it’s a YA contemporary. That’s about it. But upon further investigation I realised that the story deals with some pretty heavy subject matter that needs to be spoken about more in YA circles.
I’m pretty thrilled to be sharing my full review with you today:
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?
This is not the first YA book about bipolar disorder that I’ve read. I’ve gone through my fair share of them, in fact. But I don’t think I’ve learned as much about the disorder from any of the previous books I’ve read. And that is saying something.
The first thing that struck me was the narrator, who was so completely different to the “typical YA narrator” suffering from bipolar. She wasn’t the over the top, bubbly person that I’ve come to expect from a book like this and I could actually form a connection with her character because of her personality. It shocked me to think that every book I read up until this point, painted someone with bipolar disorder in precisely the same way. It disturbed me… Because every single person is completely different; so every person struggling with this disorder is different too. There are different triggers, different behavioural patterns, and different methods of controlling it (if the person can control it at all). It unnerved me that a lot of books I read portrayed someone with bipolar disorder to be the same as the next person suffering with similar symptoms.
I appreciated that A Tragic Kind of Wonderful moved away from these stereotypes, and told a marvellous story as well.
All the books I’ve read that deals with this subject, somehow gets turned into a romance. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good romance! But I feel like a book of this nature shouldn’t make a love story the focal point. Rather deal with the character in question and offer some other forms of happiness, because to me it feels like the only way someone can be happy (in these books) is if they find their soul mate. It’s in bad taste and I don’t care for it. This is another reason I enjoyed reading ATKoW – the romance takes a back seat. Yes there is romance in this book, but it wasn’t in your face. It didn’t become the sole reason for the character to want professional help. And even so, the love interest was just too adorable I couldn’t fault Eric Lindstrom for adding him to the story…
However, I feel that little cliché was made up for with the friendship dynamics. Yes there was a lot of high school drama but I think it was important to add it into the book because these are the kinds of issues young people deal with on a daily basis. These stressors contribute to the wellbeing of the person suffering with bipolar, so it offers significant insight into how these situations could be handled and, more importantly, what kind of tools could be given to them so that they can find a balance when facing these struggles. I liked that the friendship and family relationships in this story was given more focus than the romance. It was actually the most important thing to the narrator, so that made me enjoy the story even more.
The biggest lesson I took from this story was that you never know what the next person is struggling with. It is so important for all of us to be kind and accepting, to be mindful and have empathy; especially if we don’t understand the full extent of the burdens someone else may be carrying. I’m happy that these books are being written because it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
To conclude, I thought I’d draw up a little pros and cons list, i.e. “tragics” and “wonderfuls”… (Haha, get it?)
- Bitchy girlfriends
- Slow at the beginning
- Strong friendship and family relationships
- Diversity: Chinese characters, elderly characters, LGBT elements
- Main character doesn’t resent taking medication
- A bit of romance
- Story is addictive
So you see? The Wonderfuls outnumbers the Tragics by quite a bit; which is why I gave this book a 4/5 star rating.
*I’d like to thank Jonathan Ball Publishers for sending A Tragic Kind of Wonderful for me to read and review.*