ARC Review: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

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Release Dare: February 7, 2017

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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.

review3/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

PROS:

  • There was so much to learn from this book. Mental health isn’t talked about anywhere near as much as it should be. There’s a complex system of animals Mel uses to illustrate her moods/how she’s feeling, which you might want to write down for reference throughout, because it is a little hard and confusing to keep track of. As far as I know (I’m not an expert), this is a poignant and realistic portrayal of the mental and physical highs and lows experienced by someone who is bipolar. It was an awakening for me as a reader, because I haven’t read many books with this mental illness. It brought keen insight into the disorder and how the individual’s thinking and feeling change, how they react, and the medicine cabinet full of medication that some who suffer from this disorder live with everyday. I think a big part of this story was trying to show how normal mental illness can appear to an outsider or someone who doesn’t know. There was a bunch of terminology I had no clue about and I was pretty startled by the idea of subintentional suicide; I’d never heard of that before. Generally when we think of people who make dangerous choices it’s in a oh, what a daredevil kind of way, but this was truly eye-opening for me, and in connection to bipolar disorder. I am still reeling. 
  • I adored HJ (Hurricane Joan). She’s this feisty, sassy aunt, who like Mel, has bipolar disorder. She’s super fun and full of energy, and while she does have her down times, she has such a strong presence. 
  • Mel was an intriguing character. She wasn’t particularly interesting, but she was compassionate, giving, a genuinely good person. Her emotions were a dizzying spiral of highs and lows, ups and downs, and very raw, honest. Her confusion and fear are clear, even if she doesn’t understand why she feels the way she does or how she’s going to react. Mel is trying to cope with her disorder, not beat it or pretend that it doesn’t exist. Mel believes she can be like a “normal” person and that in order to do so, she needs to lie. Why Mel insists on all the lies is revealed in time, but it doesn’t always feel like it was necessary. 
  • Mel and David are cute together. They’re blunt and challenge each other. He is the only one that she is completely truthful with and where she can be the most herself. They’re funny, playful, and have an easy way with each other that feels meant to be.

CONS:

  • A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is split into flashbacks and current events. There are two storylines, one regarding the time before diagnosis and another after. These stories mix and mingle with each other and I wasn’t entirely sold on how it was set up. They way these two narratives were presented made the pacing feel staggered. You feel like you wait forever to things that are alluded to from the very beginning-like why her friendship with Zumi and Conner is on the outs. The whole book you wait for this reveal and it’s built up so much that you expect it to be something world-shattering and terrible, and while it is a betrayal, when you know the reasons why, it’s like, oh, shrug. Other reveals, like what happened to her brother and the mystery about her name, were a little frustrating, but once you understand that they took so long to get to because Mel couldn’t safely, emotionally process them, it’s okay. 
  • All of the characters except for David and Mel and HJ and most of the elderly people-let me fix this, most of the teen characters were antisocial, withdrawn, and even with the flashbacks, didn’t have much personality. The connection between them and Mel was supposedly so strong that it emotionally paralyzes her to think about it, and yet, that feeling does not carry through the book, it’s more talked about than actually illustrated. Most of the story, I questioned why Mel even cared that these people were no longer in her life, she had replacements in the form of Holly and Declan, who were similar enough to the original friends that they were kind of forgettable. Had there been more interaction with ANY of these friends, a stronger establishment between characters would have been made and it would have been easier to become emotionally invested. Again, I think this had a lot to do with how the book was organized. 
  • I wish there had been more flashbacks to Mel and her brother. I felt like the focus was skewed. So much emphasis was placed on the loss of these friends she made after her brother’s death, when his loss is the root of so much of her hurt. 

SIDE NOTE: I would not compare this to All the Bright Places in terms of writing style, but thematically, sure. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Informative reading, 

Jordan

Review: Pearl by Deirdre Riordan Hall

pearlGoodreads/Amazon

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Run fast and run far, unless you’re fearless. Unless you’re courageous. I’m not, but I’d like to be.

Pearl Jaeger is seventeen and homeless after drugs, poverty, and addiction unraveled the life she shared with JJ, her formerly glamorous rock star mother.

This moment of happiness is fleeting; someone will take it from me.

When tragedy brings a chance to start over at an elite boarding school, she doesn’t hesitate. Yet the only salvation comes from an art teacher as troubled as Pearl, and she faces the stark reality that what she thought she wanted isn’t straightforward.

I trace the outline of my reflection in a window. I am no more than a replica of my mother. This is not the self-portrait I want to paint.

Through the friendships she forms at school—especially with Grant, a boy who shows Pearl what it means to trust and forgive—she begins to see a path not defined by her past. But when confronted with the decision to be courageous or to take the easy way forged by her mother’s failures, which direction will Pearl choose?

review

3/5 Stars

***I received this book as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author 

Pearl is a tale of overcoming, self discovery, and learning to cope when life is too much. 

The story starts out strong. It’s a compelling, gritty, no holds barred look into a toxic family situation rife with drugs, abuse, and hopelessness. The story is real. It’s a situation that happens everyday, but so many ignore, look away, and certainly don’t talk about it. The portrayal of addiction and the secondary consequences of drug use like abuse, bullying, danger, homelessness, etc., are on full display and told with an honesty that transcends the fact that the story is fiction. It’s almost like a diary of a lost, terrified girl whose whole world is lived in her mother’s shadow. 

As the story progresses into Pearl’s stay at the private school and summer school, the story kind of slows and flits in and out of focus. There’s a drug-filled haze and depression coupled with romance and attempts to find herself. Regardless, it loses a bit of that dark, honest magic of the first section. 

Pearl is tainted by her mother. She loves her, she can’t help it. No matter how much her mother lashes out at her, messes up, and puts them in dire situations, Pearl remembers the moments when she knew her mother cared for her equally as much as the hateful comments. Pearl is not her mother, but everyone sees her as a messed up teen who is destined to get into trouble just like her mother. Everyone expects her to fail, there’s no faith and because she doesn’t have that direct or even indirect support, every single day is a struggle to stay focused and on the straight and narrow. Pearl is lost. She’s never had a role model really and doesn’t know how to be confident or even okay with herself. This opportunity at school is like a lifesaver that opens her up to discovery of the girl she buried within herself years ago. 

I was torn about the art teacher. He’s super pushy and mean. It’s borderline abusive the way he yells at the students. At the same time, he pushes them to a new level of talent. I wasn’t sold. This seemed toxic. While he had faith in Pearl when others did not, it was not a great example of a positive source of encouragement. 

Secondary characters are intriguing and interesting. You’ll want to know them. They’re far from perfect, in fact, many of them are downright jerks, but they’re themselves through and through. Sorel is a character to be remembered for sure. 

There are many mature subjects like drugs, sex, addiction, and abuse. This is MATURE YA.

The romance wasn’t for me. It faded in and out. It was random. The emotion was playful, yet subtle, until it was über sexual. While Grant did make Pearl feel beautiful and like she was worth something for the first time in her life, he was judgemental and pushed her away when she needed him. He didn’t listen, he assumed, and while there were reasons, he knew her well enough to give her a chance. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Read on, 

Jordan

ARC Review & Tour: The Odyssey of Falling-Paige Crutcher

PaigeVBT copyTOOF CoverGoodreads/Amazon/Smashwords

“I hate hurt feelings, but sometimes that doesn’t matter. Because I’ve decided feelings, like falling in love for the first time, are meant to hurt.”

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cooltext1690355244 copyMeet Odd. Audrey “Odd” Ashworth is an exceptionally bright girl with a sympathetic heart. She’s in the top 4% of her class. She’s obsessed with getting into Manhattan School of Music, committed to following the “signs” the universe delivers, and infatuated with her recently deceased best friend’s boyfriend.

Life is a little strange for Odd.

Until she finds her best friend’s diary in her crush’s car, and decides to do the bucket list tucked inside the pages. As Odd seeks closure and a way to honor her friend, she discovers there’s nothing wrong with being a little strange, especially if it helps you discover who you were meant to be. Along the way, Odd falls into trouble, adventure, and finally love.

cooltext1785880126 copy 23.5/5 Stars

***I received this book as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley, the author, and JKSCommunications

Paige Crutcher’s The Odyssey of Falling is an emotionally charged coming of age story made up of eclectic characters learning how to deal with loss. They make mistakes, they fall, they hurt but mostly, they learn to stand on their own feet and to accept themselves.

PROS:

  • Crutcher’s style is very Salinger meets Fitzgerald, capitalizing on the bleak and honest facets of the human heart. The story weaves between emotionally bereft to explosive feels, effectively capturing the spontaneous, sometimes dangerous, mood swings of the average teen.
  • Each character is connected by loss and has their own memories that serve as a piece of the puzzle that is the late Meredith. What’s incredibly fascinating about these mini glimpses into Meredith’s character is that it shows how one person can linger, leaving their hand print on the lives of many by simply being.
  • There’s an air of whimsy and mystery, almost as if Meredith was some ethereal and untouchable goddess. As the truth comes out and Meredith’s underlying colors are revealed, the disillusionment and awe evaporate, leaving behind a confused girl on the verge of adulthood, much like the rest of the characters.
  • There’s a beautiful symmetry in how the story moves in jolts and fragments only to come full circle. Guilt eats away at the soul in the face of unexpected tragedy. Each character deals with their grief differently, some turning to drugs and others to obsession. 
  • Texting and driving and the dangerous of laced drugs apprehended from shady people are both important aspects of this story that make Odd’s imaginative side flush with reality. Sure we see commercials, we know the risks of these behaviours but reading, picturing, experiencing the trauma and aftershocks of these actions really cut like a knife, making you think.
  • Penny and Leo are an aloof, sort of liminal couple. They’re there but not really. Their presence is fleeting yet vibrant, they almost float through the story but there’s something enchanting about their playful, chaotic relationship. Sage is hilarious, she brightens up the dull points in the story and brings Odd out of her shell.
  • Some moments are profound in their simplicity, like peaceful epiphanies. 
  • The diary reveal was unexpected and yet, fitting. It made the whole stark reality come together.
  • Bandit is a sweetheart. He’s accepting and attentive. He soothes and understands. He’s a lovely, kind person. The scene in the closet with the incense and the stars ❤ Melt into a puddle of swoon total cuteness.

CONS:

  • The hummingbird motif fell apart. It started strong, Odd’s OCD about the signs and deciphering what the universe was throwing at her was a great idea but got lost.
  • Odd is insanely frustrating. She’s on this ridiculous mission to honor her friend and is too stubborn to see the carnage she’s leaving in the wake of her bucket list. She’s sporadic, she says whatever is on her mind and loves to argue with people she cares about the most. It causes a lot of drama and it’s pretty crazy how blind she is to what’s right in front of her. I had a hard time liking her or even rooting for her character. She’s not selfless but she is a good person. However, as the plot evolves, it’s impossible to wonder how much of it is sheer guilt and how much was because she cared.
  • As a love interest Chase is a jerk. He toys with Odd’s emotions and is kind of manipulative. I didn’t get the attraction and the same with Jay. They felt like random bits of drama that only made Odd’s character feel more conflicted but without a strong emotional connection.
  • Odd’s goal of getting into music school was lacking substance. There wasn’t any true passion. It felt like that part of her was missing.

cooltext1690354613 copyPaigeWebsite/Twitter/LinkedIn/Goodreads/Amazon

I write, read, rock out on my yoga mat, report for Publishers Weekly, and write YA. I play well with words and others, and when I’m not reporting, I daydream excessively before putting words on the page. Sometimes they’re jibberish, sometimes they’re honest in a way that makes me feel a little awkweird, but they always come with a message of hope and love.

More often than not, I’ve got my nose in a book (occasionally while inside my book fort), because inside story is where the magic waits.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

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