The Premise: it’s fair to say Mel is pretty troubled. In the aftermath of her brother’s death and parents’ divorce, she’s moved to a new town, but problems just won’t leave her alone; a mysterious falling-out with her friends has left her socially isolated, along with a condition she’s desperate to keep a secret from the world.
Thoughts: Lindstrom, as you might know, is also the author of Not If I See You First, which I loved (review here). He is also the reason I had to turn off autocorrect, because it kept changing his surname to Windstorm, which was very annoying.
Aside from these issues, A Tragic Kind of Wonderful didn’t grab me to begin with. Although Mel is an intriguing character and the hints to her background grabbed my attention, it took too long for any actual details to emerge; it gave a realistic sense of Mel’s struggle to deal with mental illness, but it wasn’t massively enthralling to read about. I am a very impatient person and books which spend a lot of time hinting at secrets which will be revealed later on tend to annoy me; it’s like when my daughter decides she has a secret and won’t tell me what it is but tells me every ten seconds that she has one. Of course, her secrets generally involve having seen a squirrel or dropped the toilet roll in the loo, so it’s not really the same as the stuff that Mel grapples with.
The last third of the book is much more fast-paced and the overall structure of the book cleverly reflects Mel’s illness (although I’ve seen Goodreads reviews that reveal what it is, the blurb doesn’t, so I’m not being specific in case it could be seen as a spoiler; if you want to know what I’m skirting around, you can check Goodreads), although I felt like I waited a long time for anything to happen. Maybe this makes me sound horrible. I am, so it’s accurate. I did like the cast of characters at the home for the elderly where Mel works; the contrast between teenagers and old people gave the book a different aspect, as well as some appealing characters. I was less interested in the friends Mel seemed to have lost; one, in particular, just seemed very self-centred and I didn’t understand why I was supposed to care about her. It all gets very complicated and I like life to be simple. Why, you may ask, am I reading YA books then? It’s a fair question.
In Conclusion: for me, A Tragic Kind of Wonderful suffers by comparison to its predecessor; Not If I See You First was so vibrant and funny and absorbing that I couldn’t help but compare Lindstrom’s follow-up as I read. This isn’t very fair, as any younger sibling would probably tell you. I’m the oldest though, so this is how my brain works. There are lots of interesting things about A Tragic Kind of Wonderful; you have to wait until quite late on to get to them, but they do make it a worthwhile read.