Review Blog

Mar 20 2017

A tragic kind of wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

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Harper Collins, 2017. ISBN 978008183011 (Age: 14+) Themes: mental illness, bipolar disorder, friendship, family, love. Mel Hannigan's has bipolar disorder, diagnosed after a period of traumatic events, requiring a period in hospital. Her best memory is of the day her brother Nolan encouraged her to wag school and they had an amazing day of doing crazy things together. But this memory is closely tied to her worst memory, one she won't allow herself to contemplate, an ability she describes as her 'superpower'. We soon find out that Nolan died and this precipitated her parent's divorce, requiring Mel and her mother to move in with her aunt. On her first day at a new school Mel was bullied by a group of girls but rescued by Annie, Zumi and Connor who soon became best friends. After her breakdown Mel is reluctant to tell her friends about her illness and the friendship suffers. She is not the only one in her family to suffer this mental disorder, HJ, her aunt prefers to enjoy the highs and endure the lows rather than take medication, and it is pretty obvious that her brother's death happened while he was in the grip of a manic episode. We find that the disorder manifests itself in a wide spectrum of symptoms and Mel keeps track of her own symptoms by keeping a mood diary which helps when adjusting her medication. At school Mel describes herself as an antisocial underachiever but she works at a retirement home where she is in demand for her empathy and cheerful assistance, there she meets David, the grandson of one of the residents and they have immediate rapport. The normal highs and lows of teenage life (including mood swings with the onset of menstruation) are complicated by Mel's disorder and her unwillingness to share knowledge of it with her friends. When problems with her friends become traumatic, coinciding with a crisis in her mood, things go terribly wrong. Packaged up into a readable story about friendships and first love, readers are introduced to what it must mean for a teen to live with bipolar disorder in a way that is both detailed and insightful. Following on from Lindstrom's Not if I See you First and joining a number of recent stories about mental disorders, this novel is sure to find an enthusiastic readership especially from year 9/10 girls. Sue Speck

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