A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom. Imprint HarperCollins, 2017.
This is a senior Young Adult novel from a brilliant writer who knows how to unlock and discuss serious emotional and mental conditions in young people. It is positive.
When Mel was thirteen her older brother who lit up her life died. The family shifted house, the parents separated and Mel never told any of her friends that she had had a brother.
Mel had a breakdown and now takes a whole lot of drugs including ritalin to level her out. Now she is sixteen in a new school with new friends and working in an old peoples home called Silver Sands.
Every chapter is headed by the same four headings of animals beginning with H. Hamster describes her head condition, Hummingbird her heart, Hammerhead her physical condition and Hannigananimal whether she is up or down.
Mel sees herself as an antisocial underachiever, but she is not. Her manner at the Silver Sands retirement home is outstanding. She is caring and perceptive and she is going to get better.
Mel narrates the story of her life at school and with her friends and family and between these chapters there are chapters written in italics that tell about her brother and her arguements with friends that get to the heart of her mental state.
Battles are never won. Only survived. The dialogue between characters and the relationships between teenagers and adults are excellently handled.
Beautifully written in short sharp chapters that will keep you in the book. I couldn’t put it down. Eric Lindstrom also has Not If I See You First reviewed on this blog.
If you like tragic young adult stories this is about as tragic as it gets, but so wonderfully told.
Janie and her secret boyfriend Micah share the same birthday. They call it Metaphor Day after a pile of rocks that stands near a deep quarry full of water near both their houses. They are different yet together. Micah likes Rachmaninoff Prelude in G Minor, Janie is Let it Be by the Beatles. Janie carries rocks from the Metaphor around in her pocket.
They tell no-one of their relationship because Janie wants it that way, meanwhile she has a relationship with a jock called Ander from school. He is repulsive and his actions ultimately lead to Janie’s collapse.
Lewis Carroll once said “all the best people are crazy” and I think this sums up the characters in the book well, but then aren’t we all. This is a school story about growing up.
The novel is structured in two parts, Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After and within each part their are three narratives – a Before narrative by Janie, an After narrative by Micah and a Journal kept by Janie which provides a fairytale dimension to Janie’s life and to the story.
It took me a while to get into this novel but once in there I dwelt for long periods digesting every word, action, emotion and fantasy. You will too. It is not unlike All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. It is very deep and not for everybody but those that like it will remember it forever.
If you read one Young Adult book this year make it this one. It will blow your mind. I once heard an interviewer ask Stephen Fry why he went off medication and he answered “I missed all those highs”. This book is about all those highs and those lows of two teenagers and possibly half their friends who are suffering from some form of mental illness.
Theodore Finch doesn’t know who he is. he has a number of personnas – Badass Finch, Dirtbag Finch, Loser Finch and 80,s Finch among others. He has had some sort of breakdown that he refers to as the Asleep. His parents are separated, there is little communication in the home and his sportsman father has physically abused him as a child.
Finch is falling apart but in the most brilliant of fashions. His wit and imagination are superb. You will laugh, wonder and cry at the same time. Finch narrates most of the chapters.
Finch meets Violet at the top of the school bell tower. Both are standing on the ledge contemplating what if I jump? Finch talks Violet out of it although everybody thinks it is the other way round. Violet was involved in a car accident in which her older sister was killed. She can’t get over it. She wears her sisters glasses and refuses to get into a car. All her old pastimes and interests fall by the wayside. Her excuse is “I am not ready yet”. It is a cop out and she knows it. Violet narrates the rest of the chapters in response to contact with Finch.
The meeting with Finch on the bell tower is to change both their lives as is the geography assignment in which they are partners. Lots of school stuff and some good and bad adults.
It is brilliant. If you don’t read this you deserve a kicking.
This is a novel that explores friendship between teenage girls particularly when things go wrong and misunderstandings cloud the issue.
It is also a novel about a ruthless and mentally disturbed girl.
Olive and Katie were best of friends until Olive had an incident in her life and new girl Miranda Vaile turned up at school.
Miranda takes advantage of the falling out of Olive and Katie but there is something more sinister happening than that. Katie starts to lose weight drastically as though she was anorexic and Miranda starts to not only look like the old Katie but steals her boyfriend and assumes the top dog role in the school society.
What is going on here?
Olive has a friend called Ami but is she real?
A novel that is compulsive reading and if you have ever seen the film Single White Female then you will see parallels in this book.
A psychological drama. Definitely High school in appeal.
The Half Life of Ryan Davis by Melinda Szymanik. Pub. Pear Jam Books, 2011.
Three years later Ryan, who narrates this book, is now 15 years old and his sister Gemma is 13 years. They live with their mother who worships her missing daughters memory and holds her up as a paragon to poor Ryan and Gemma. They don’t stand a chance.
The police are still on the case and report that Mallory’s cell phone has been used. Ryan notices a strange car is following him. Is it all over?
When Ryan is found en flagrante with his girlfriend Kim and Gemma becomes interested in Ryan’s mate Alex all hell breaks loose.
A disturbing story but compelling reading. Tightly told in short chapters which capture the teenage voice very well. Almost a detective/mystery novel but has more depth than that.
Will have great appeal to teenage readers.
Letters to Leonardo by Dee White. Pub.Walker Books, 2009.
Matt knows he is different from his father because when it is his 15th birthday he wants to do art lessons and his father gives him a book on motorbikes. “What do you want art lessons for?” Matt is upset.
Then he gets an even bigger shock. It is a card from his motherstating “I promised I wouldn’t do this but your are 15 now-old enough to make your way in the world-old enough to know your mother”. Matt is blown away and takes his anger out on his father.
He decides he wants to find his mother even though his father gives him information about his mother that is disturbing. “She will only give you grief”. But Matt persists, what will the future bring?
Read it and find out.
The reference to Leonardo is an art one and a school assignment. Matt has to write letters to Leonardo comparing their different lives. In doing so he gets right into Leonardo’s life as an artist, and his work.
Worth a read this book for secondary school students. Similar in theme to Paul Jennings The Nest.
Best part of this story is the father. Makes mistakes but sorts it all and is understanding.