Book Title:
A Tragic Kind of Wonderful
Book Author:
Eric Lindstrom
Publishing Date:
February 7th, 2017
Date Read:
February 7th, 2017
ARC from publisher - Thank you!


In the vein of It's Kind of a Funny Story and All the Bright Places, comes a captivating, immersive exploration of life with mental illness.

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?

In A Tragic Kind of Wonderful, Eric Lindstrom, author of the critically acclaimed Not If I See You First, examines the fear that keeps us from exposing our true selves, and the courage it takes to be loved for who we really are.

My Review

In A Tragic Kind of Wonderful, we get a look into a sixteen year old girl’s life as she deals with bipolar disorder.  It’s an eye-opening experience for those who might not know much about it, and for those who do, you can understand what the main character is going through in the book.  It is a raw and gripping read, one that will shake you up and give you insight into what it is like living with bipolar disorder.

“‘Battles are never won.  Only survived.'”

Mel Hannigan knows battles.  She has survived several of them – losing her brother and then herself.  She is a sixteen year old girl who tries to keep herself closed off – after a falling out with her group of friends, she holds the two other friends that she has made at arm’s length, only talking in school and maybe hanging out once a week for Movie Roulette.  No one at her school knows about her brother.  No one at schools knows about her bipolar disorder – in fact, she has worked incredibly hard to keep both of those things hidden from everyone.  Instead, she spends her days at home with her mom and her aunt, seeing her dad every now and again, and the rest of her free time goes to her job at the assisted living center, where she has made friends with the seniors living there.  She also spends her time taking pills, seeing her psychiatrist, and measuring her feelings and emotions using her special charting system.

For the most part, Mel can handle her bipolar disorder – sure, she has “off” days, but for the most part, things have been going smoothly for her.  And then a new resident moves into the assisted living center, and there she meets her Grandson, David.  David and Mel don’t quite get along at first, but when they start talking and spending more time together, their feelings for each other blossom, which both confuses and delights Mel.

“‘When you’re happy,’ he says, ‘you’re the light in the room.  And when you’re sad, you’re still the light in the room.'”

When one of her old three friends moves away, leaving a mysterious box with the belongings of the other two friends behind and in Mel’s care, she finds herself forced to interact with two people who used to be her best friends, but now she no longer talks to at all.  When new secrets involving the three of them arise and start to build up and then tear down friendships all over again, Mel starts to lose control of everything, leading her to an inevitable breakdown.  She starts to question who she can and cannot trust, and is forced to come to terms with a lot of things about her life – including her diagnosis, whether or not her friendship with those she cares about is real, and the tragedy involving her brother.

This book was a really honest look into bipolar disorder.  I know some people seem to think that you can take a single pill every day and be just fine, and others think it’s just a temporary problem and will “go away with time.”  Since that isn’t the case, and bipolar disorder is, in fact, a real issue that needs to be managed, it’s really nice to read a book that sheds light upon it and does a great job talking about what it’s like to deal with it on a day to day basis.

Not only does Mel have to deal with taking medications and monitoring her moods, she also has your usual teenage stuff to deal with – crushes, family issues, and friend related drama.  Not to mention the horrible thing involving her brother that happened before the family moved.  Mel has a lot on her plate, and her character deals with things in a realistic and healthy way – she cries, she tries, she deals with things the best she can, and sometimes she just can’t.  I think this is important for people to know that every now and again, people have to take a step back and realize that they can’t always do everything – and that’s okay.

At first I was kind of confused by the way that Mel chooses to monitor her feelings and health, but after it gets explained and you read the book, I started to get more of a feeling for it.  Each chapter starts with it, so you can watch as her moods change throughout the book.  It’s a clever and unique addition to the novel, and it’s also pretty important to the book and getting to know Mel’s character.

This book has a lot of emphasis on a family support system, including Mel’s mom and aunt, who lives with them.  Mel’s aunt just wants her to live her life like a teenager, while her mom works her hardest to be sure that Mel takes her medication and sees her therapist on a regular basis.  Some of the actions that Mel’s aunt takes are questionable(for example, she buys Mel a bottle of vodka in one chapter), but she loves her with all of her heart and just wants her to live her life to the fullest.  Unfortunately, Mel’s dad isn’t really around that much in the book.

I enjoyed reading how Mel and David’s relationship blooms – there isn’t any insta-love in this book, and I am so thankful for that.

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is a heart wrenching portrayal about love, loss, and a very accurate portrayal about what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder.

4.5 stars
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9 Responses to A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

  1. Brittany says:

    I haven’t read too many books that accurately handle bipolar disorder in a realistic, yet sensitive manner. I’m really intrigued by this book! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

    Brittany @ Brittany’s Book Rambles

    • Kelly says:

      This book was definitely full of raw emotion, and at times it was kind of hard to read, especially when Mel was feeling manic – most of those chapters were scattered, continuous thoughts with no punctuation or anything, which made me love the book even more, because it was just real. It’s such a great read!

  2. I have been wanting to read this book for a while now. It is such an important topic and affects more people than I am sure we are aware of. I am so glad that you enjoyed this one because sometimes mental illness can be a difficult genre to write and depict properly. This is definitely one book that I will be reading this year. Thanks for the lovely review. 🙂
    Olivia @ The Candid Cover recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday #92: Literally by Lucy KeatingMy Profile

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks so much! I honestly couldn’t agree more – I’ve read a lot of books dealing with mental illness that did a poor job portraying what it is really like to live with the issue at hand. However, this book was written beautifully, and though difficult to read at times, it really allows a peek into the life of someone with bipolar disorder in a way that I haven’t read in other books before. I wish more books were written that deal with bipolar disorder in this way – the few that I’ve seen were rather unmemorable, but this one will really stick with you!

  3. Sarah says:

    I hadn’t heard of this one at all but it sounds fantastic. I love books that can really make me “feel” so thanks very much for putting it on my radar. Recently there seem to be so many books on mental health but I feel many of them are just written because “mental health” is selling – not because the author actually cares about the topic. This sounds like a great book though – thanks for sharing!

    • Kelly says:

      I agree with you – a lot of books that deal with mental health are just being written because that’s what a lot of people want to read about, but often it doesn’t seem like it’s researched properly. That isn’t the case in this book, and I loved it. It really was a breath of fresh air in the YA book community, and it definitely deserves to be recognized!

  4. Going to be reading this soon and hopefully it’s really good as I did really enjoy Eric’s other book, Not If I See You First!

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks for stopping by! I read Not if I See You First last year, and I have to say that I loved this one so much more than that book. This one has so much more feeling and I liked the characters a lot more. I can’t wait to see what you think about it when you read it!

  5. Anyta says:

    I really enjoyed reading this novel. LOve you so much Eric. Thankful. I can feel that Mel and David’s relationship. Aaaaa really nice. Thanks a lot.

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