The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
Contemporary Fiction | Romance
Published by Sarah Crichton Books
Released September 2, 2008
Goodreads | Amazon
When I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, I wanted to understand more about it. Since I’m obsessed with books, that resulted in trying to find books with bipolar characters. I typed “books with bipolar characters” into Google, and one of the books that kept popping up over and over again was Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook.
I’d heard of this book but didn’t know too much about it, aside from that it had been made into a film. I figured since it was rated fairly well, I’d give it a shot.
I wish I hadn’t.
Before I get into why I wish I hadn’t read it, a little synopsis in case you’re not familiar with the story. We follow Pat, who is recently out of a psychiatric hospital and is staying with his parents after suffering a mental break. We’re not sure at first what caused him to end up in this situation, although we start to piece it together little by little. Pat has issues with anger and is pining over his estranged wife.
We also meet Tiffany, who is depressed after the sudden death of her husband. Tiffany is incredibly socially awkward and starts to follow Pat on his daily runs. Slowly, the two of them start to spend more time together, especially after Pat agrees to help her win a dance competition in exchange for Tiffany acting as a liaison between himself and his wife. This is a romance book, so you can probably guess what happens next.
So, why didn’t I like The Silver Linings Playbook?
First of all, there are no bipolar characters in this book. I’m not sure why The Silver Linings Playbook is on so many lists of novels with bipolar characters. Pat seems to have a brain injury, and Tiffany is a depressed nymphomaniac. Perhaps in the film adaptation, they call what Pat has bipolar disorder? I’ve never seen the film, so I’m not sure, but it’s the only explanation I can think of.
Second, both Pat and Tiffany act and talk like they’re children. Pat constantly refers to “the bad place” and “apart time” in such a childish way that it made me cringe every time he said it.
Third, we learn that Pat’s wife is an English teacher, so in an attempt to feel closer to her, Pat reads several classic novels. If you haven’t read the following novels, you might want to skip reading The Silver Linings Playbook, because author Matthew Quick spoils the ending for all of these:
- The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Fourth, I found the book to be mildly offensive to people with mental illness, particularly in regards to depression. I’ve dealt with moderate to severe depression for most of my adult life, and the way Tiffany was written was so off-putting to me. Yes, some people might deal with the loss of a partner with promiscuity, but her entire character was over-simplified in such a way that it was more of a quirk than a serious illness. I really feel as though Matthew Quick just wanted to make his characters quirky rather than really portraying what living with a mental illness is like.
Fifth, and finally, Quick’s writing was sloppy and simple. I had to push my way through this short book. I constantly wanted to DNF it, but I also really wanted to review it and share my thoughts, so I forced myself to finish it. I know this review is going to come across as harsh, but I felt that it was necessary to be truthful with this review. I did not like the mental illness representation in The Silver Linings Playbook, the characters were weak at best, and the book left a bad taste in my mouth.