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

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ARC Review: Not If I See You First-Eric Lindstrom

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synThe Rules:

Don’t deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public.

Don’t help me unless I ask. Otherwise you’re just getting in my way or bothering me.

Don’t be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I’m just like you only smarter.

Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there’s only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that’s right, her eyes don’t work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened–both with Scott, and her dad–the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

review2.5/5 Stars

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

Not If I See You First impressed me from the first page. The author does an amazing job getting you into the mindset of someone who is blind. From the little ways that Parker has had to adjust and the issues that she faces, especially the part about being unable to read and listening to books to learn things like trig, to the various ways in which people make assumptions about blindness, it’s the kind of story that makes you think and might give you some perspective. 

That being said, there are so many issues that took my star rating from 5 to 3.The story is about a girl who is mourning. Not only has she lost her father recently to what may or may not be suicide, her mother made a mistake that caused her blindness and died in the process, and she’s lamenting the loss of her best friend/ex-boyfriend. Parker is made of loss but she doesn’t let it get to her. Her blindness is something she’s mastered and she refuses to let anyone treat her like she has a disability. She embraces her blindness as if it were an accessory that only adds to her uniqueness. I LOVED that about her. She’s quirky and blunt, she tells it like it is without fear of repercussion because in her mind, what more does she have to lose?

Here’s the thing, while Parker does have some amazing one liners, she’s a sarcastic, brash, and extremely rude person on several occasions. She spazes out and makes assumptions NONSTOP while judging everyone else for being SO judgy. It’s irritating and takes away from her character. She misses so much that’s right in front of her not because of her physical blindness but the mental kind. For someone who claims to be there to listen, she doesn’t hear anything. She makes up her mind and runs with it in a very self-involved way. 

The whole deal with Jason. I don’t even know where to begin. There’s a light love triangle but really it shouldn’t qualify because it’s so obvious what will happen. She really likes this guy, they have great chemistry, and yet, she’s dismissive, judgmental, and barely gives the guy a chance. She’s mean to him, cuts him off, and pushes him away in a really horrible way. 

The clichéd mean girl. It wasn’t anywhere near necessary and felt like filler. 

Secondary characters that could have been an asset to the plot faded into the background and had barely any involvement in the storyline. Just when they start to get interesting, bringing in diversity and issues like neglect, depression, etc., they’re dismissed for Parker’s “problems”. 

Parker was dealing with serious issues, the loss of her best friend/father and in the beginning, you feel that emotional pull. She talks to him, she asks him things, and the loss is potent, but as the story progresses that too fizzles out in favor of a love story. 

Scott is a sweetheart. He’s incredibly swoon-worthy, the way he looks out for Parker is adorable and so thoughtful. He’s attentive and sees beyond her blindness to the best friend and girl he fell in love with. Scott is also realistic, he understands the difference between nostalgia and reality. Sometimes, something we think is there is a memory and others, it’s something buried that can be rekindled. He’s the rational one that will have you reevaluting everything you think you know. 

What started as something special and important about loss and blindness, self discovery, growing, and appreciating friendship turned into a lukewarm romance that missed the original point entirely.

Keep reading, 

Jordan