A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom
Publisher: Harper Collins
Format: ARC e-book
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
After quite liking Eric Lindstrom’s debut Not If I See You First, I was really intrigued when his second book came up on NetGalley. The premise sounded so interesting, and I’m always geared up to add another book about mental health to my TBR. But, it turned out that Mel’s bipolar disorder was the only thing that kept me reading the book, and there were a few other things that almost caused me to DNF…for the first time ever.
A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is a little hard to define. It’s the story of Mel, recovering from her brother’s death, and dealing with her bipolar disorder, that she’s hiding from her friendship group. It’s also about her finding a boy she likes whose volunteering at the old people’s home is works in. On top of all this, there’s a toxic friendship circle with an Alison DiLaurentis character at the centre, who stirs a cauldron of crap before vanishing to Europe.
Yeah, that’s a lot.
I thought all of these things were really well juggled, but on reflection, it felt like I would have appreciated a story that was more streamlined, because sometimes I’d forget that I was meant to be invested in the romance, while I was occupied with the friend troubles.
Mel – Her bipolar disorder was really well written so that the reader could completely understand all the different things she was feeling and why. And while her doctor says that she isn’t defined by her mental illness, I struggled to pick out any strong personality traits that confirmed this.
Zumi – I loved everything she was. As the racially diverse, lesbian character, she’s the kind of character I want to see in every book I read, but I found the way that her sexuality was treated was horrid. Let me give you a passage between Mel and Connor talking about Zumi:
‘Oh. I’m straight.’ [Mel]
‘Same here.’ [Connor]
I tip my head, watching his face to see his reaction, and say ‘Zumi’s not.’
He just nods.
‘She ever tell you?’ I ask.
‘No. We never talked about it.’
I guess he just strongly suspects, then. Same as me.
WHAT THE HECK? What gives someone else the right to label another person’s sexuality without talking to them about it? You. Cannot. Label. Someone. Before. They. Label. Themselves. If they even want a label! Argh, this just pissed me off so much.
Also, here’s the passage before:
‘I solemnly swear I don’t have a crush on you, either.’ [Mel]
He smirks. ‘Not on me…‘
I peer at him. ‘Are you…are you saying you think I’m…?’
THIS IS SO PROBLEMATIC. WHY IS ‘LESBIAN’ THE ELLIPTICAL WORD? Why is she offended by this assumption? Being a lesbian obviously isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a thing so why the heck is she reacting so weirdly? This lesbian shaming continues later on in the book, and the passage is too long to quote, but oh my goodness, all of this caused me to knock the star rating considerably.
Annie – I hate characters like this. It demonises female friendships, which is Not. Okay.
It makes me feel really sad that the books I read that have protagonists with mental health issues always feel such shame about it, and when they eventually tell others, there’s no stigma at all, so hopefully as people realise that mental health isn’t something to feel bad for, we’ll see some characters more confident in their headspace. Friendships are meant to be a place of support, and it’s upsetting to see the lack of trust of people you choose to hang out with because you think they’re super great.
While I really loved the mental health elements, you can probably tell what I hated, and why I can’t give this more than two stars.
What’s your favourite diverse book? I need some good recommendations after being so disappointed with the sexuality representation in this book!