A girl grapples with bipolar disorder as she tries to mend broken friendships and find herself.
White teen Mel Hannigan has faced a harrowing two years: her older brother died in a tragic accident, her parents divorced, her family moved, and she had a breakdown at the onset of her bipolar disorder. After the breakdown she doesn’t speak to anyone for weeks, even her best friend, Japanese-American Zumi, and she never tells anyone about her illness. Subsequently, it’s easy for her frenemy, Annie, a white girl whom Zumi idolizes, to insist Mel abandoned her because she was tired of her. Mel is too terrified of rejection to admit to the reason for her disappearance, and Zumi’s anger sends her spiraling. At work she meets David, a Chinese-American boy that she grows close to, but she can’t bring herself to let him in either. As pressure builds around her, Mel must learn to separate who she is from the illness she has and choose whether to let her friends see all the parts of her or lose them for good. The portrayal of Mel’s bipolar disorder is nuanced and reads true to life. Her fear of rejection will be familiar to teenagers, whether they’re acquainted with mental illness or not, making it an important gateway to self-acceptance and understanding of others.
An intimate and affecting portrait of mental illness helmed by an achingly real protagonist. (Fiction. 14-18)