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?
I picked this one up for the bipolar rep. I’d heard mixed things about it but I wanted to give it a try simply because I wanted to see myself in a character. Plot wise I thought the story had a strong story arc. I enjoyed the character development and style of writing. It was very real and personal. I won’t lie, it was a little hard to read this book. I was continually putting it down for a few minutes to let myself breathe. But if you want to read it to learn more about bipolar, then I wouldn’t say no to you reading this book. In this review I want to focus on the different stereotypes about bipolar disorder that are confronted in this novel and those that are never addressed.
Bipolar Disorder Stereotypes Confronted
1. But you don’t look Bipolar? Are you sure?
I’ve been told this. It’s ridiculous. In the book Mel is asked this by her love interest. Thankfully she looks him directly in the eye and says, “Yes. I’m sure. I have a doctor who I talk to regularly. ” She just shuts that thought part of the conversation down and lets David know where she stands.
2. People with Bipolar Disorder are always either extremely up or extremely down.
While we can have manic and depressive episodes, we can also have what are called mixed moods. Its where part of us is up and running and the other parts are down and depressed. Mel tracks her different states with the Hanniganimal chart. The Hamster is her head for how clear her thinking is. The Hummingbird is her heart, for how much energy she has. The Hammerhead is her physical health. And the Hanniganimal is just herself, including her mood. I thought it was a great way to explain all the different forces that drive our “mood” everyday. Especially for those that are wanting to learn more about those with the disorder. I considering adopting her method for myself to be honest.
3. Those with Bipolar disorder don’t need medicine
Mel’s aunt refuses to take medicine because she says it makes her life cloudy. She would rather ride the highs and lows like a hurricane (her nickname) and just deal with the consequences. Cool, that’s her life. However Mel mentions that her aunt is constantly fighting Mel’s mother about how Joan doesn’t think Mel should be on medicine either. Then at one point in the book she says this to Mel. I love how Mel handled it. She tells Joan in no uncertain terms that while Joan doesn’t think meds are right for her that Mel thinks they are right for her. Mel talks about how she is making progress and learning to deal with her disorder and medicine has helped her out a lot. It’s really frustrating when people think you don’t need medicine and should do things the natural way. So I was really excited to see Mel talk to her aunt in this way.
4. Bipolar Disorder can be cured
Mel discusses in the book that there is no cure for bipolar. Our disorder is one that is all about management and adusting your lifestyle through therapy and doctor’s visits. It was very reaffirming for me personally. And important to note if you’ve never encountered someone with Bipolar.
5. People with Bipolar disorder cannot sustain relationships
I loved seeing all of Mel’s different friendships play out. I loved seeing her handle conflict, seeing how her moods effected said friendships, and just seeing Mel learn to open up about her disorder to her friends. In the beginning of the novel Mel is giving us flashbacks from her freshman year and her friendships with Connor, Zumi, and Annie. Mel is no longer friends with these three due to an event that is being alluded to the entire novel. But throughout the novel she figures out how to repair her friendship and come clean with her secrets. Mel also had two new friends in the beginning of the novel. But she realizes that she is holding back from being her real self around them because she’s afraid they won’t accept her for who she is. I was very glad to see this stereotype stomped on. Mel had many healthy friendships by the end of the novel.
Bipolar Disorder Stereotypes That Weren’t Addressed
1. Manic episodes present themselves only in sexual promiscuity
Mel talks about the different ways manic episode can present themselves but she barely touches the surface. She talks about acting recklessly and irresponsibly. She mentions her aunt and how her aunt with sleep with anyone. And at first I had no problem with this. But then it is brought to our attention that during a major manic episode Mel had a lesbian sexual encounter, keep in mind she is normally straight. This kind of rubbed me wrong because between her aunt sleeping with whoever says yes, and then Mel having what can seem as an exotic or adventurous sexual experience it makes it out like that is all our manic episodes are. And that’s just not true. Some people do dangerous stuff. Some people develop gambling problems. Personally, I shop with money I don’t have. I wish these other types of manic episodes had been mentioned.
2. Bipolar people are somehow lesser quality than those without it
This is more of a thinking process that Mel adopted that I wish had been challenged. I felt like she felt broken and inferior to her friends. And her thinking was never addressed or challenged by another character, maybe her therapist.
I would say that this is a pretty okay novel with decent representation.