Book Review: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

I really enjoyed Eric Lindstrom’s first book, Not If I See You First, so I was eager to see what his second book was like, and I’m pleased to say I enjoyed it just as much, if not more. A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is full of interesting characters, a cute romance and what seemed like a good depiction of bipolar disorder (with the disclaimer that it is something I know very little about and certainly have no personal experience of).

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How can you have a future if you can’t accept your past?

Mel Hannigan doesn’t have it easy. Mourning the death of her firework of a brother, facing the loss of three friendships that used to mean everything to her and struggling to deal with a condition that even her closest friends don’t know about. To protect herself and everyone else, Mel tries to lock away her heart, to live quietly without pain – but also without hope.

Until the plight of an old friend, and meeting someone new, shows her that the risk is worth taking, that opening up to life – and who you really are – is what can make everything glorious… And that maybe Mel can discover a tragic kind of wonderful of her very own.

A beautiful, captivating story about living with mental illness, and loving – even with a broken heart.

Mel isn’t an easy character to like – she’s purposely closed herself off as much as she can after the death of her brother, to the extent that some of her friends don’t even know she had a brother. Her closest companions are probably the residents of the care home she works in (and incidentally, I loved Dr. Jordan, but I’d have liked to see more of Mrs Li), and her aunt, Hurricane Jean, who lives with Mel and her mum. She has friends, she just doesn’t really see them as friends. I found myself warming towards Mel as the story went on though. Her charts that she tracks her moods with were an interesting piece of character building, and actually, it’s entirely understandable that she behaves in the way she does, considering the things that have happened. There are sections of the story set in the past, so we see how Mel got to this point, and how much she adored her brother, and I think this really helps us to get to know her.

There were a few things I really liked about A Tragic Kind of Wonderful. The first was that it was very clear that not everyone with bipolar disorder will experience life in the same way, that Mel’s disorder needs to be treated differently to her aunt’s. The second is that love does not miraculously cure Mel, as it might do in other books. There is a point where it looks like David, the boy Mel likes rather a lot, might be about to solve all Mel’s problems, and it actually turns out that he’s made the most sensible decision possible in the situation (trying to explain this without spoilers is *really* difficult!). Mel’s family is fantastic – her mum and her aunt are always looking out for her, although I don’t feel we got to know her dad very well. I also liked how the writing made it obvious if Mel was late with her medication, because her thought process speeded up. The gradual reveal of the central mysteries worked well too, although I did feel like Zumi needed to get a grip of herself

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is a really enjoyable book. It’s not perfect, and it did feel like it was dragging a little at some points, but overall I would recommend it.

3.5/5

ARC received from the publisher, Harper Collins Children’s Books, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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