Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis: Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life — getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job — Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That’s when things start to get crazy.
At his new school, Craig realizes that he’s just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig stops eating and sleeping — until, one night, he nearly kills himself.
Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.
Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a moving tale about depression, that’s definitely a funny story.
Before I review this I have so many thoughts about this book that I am actually not really sure where to start. This book was recommended to me by one of my colleagues daughters who sometimes reads this blog. Hi Julia! I hadn’t heard of Ned Vizzini, and my colleague was telling me that Ned had committed suicide recently (December 19 2013) at the young age of 32. The next day, Julia was kind enough to loan me two of Ned’s books. It’s Kind Of A Funny Story as well as Be More Chill, which I’ll read shortly.
This book was eerie as it is about a male protagonist who is suicidal and commits himself into a mental hospital in an attempt to feel better again. It was written after Ned himself spent 5 days in a mental hospital, and in light of what has recently transpired, I feel as thought this book was in many ways an auto-biography, however Ned’s life didn’t end on as happy a note as the book did.
Call it my public service announcement but I always feel it’s worth saying this, but if you or anyone you know is depressed or suicidal – you can get free help from lots of different places. Firstly, there’s always toll free numbers you can call (depending on where you live) if you need to speak to someone. In Australia you can also get information from Beyond Blue.
Review: A novel about depression that isn’t depressing is quite hard to come about. But a serious as It’s Kind Of A Funny Story is, there’s also some quirky and funny moments within this book. And most importantly, there’s hope and an uplifting feel to this novel.
Our protagonist is 15 year old Craig, who has clinical depression. He is smart and does well in school, and he has friends. But he realises he’s not mentally well. After seeing his doctor and being prescribed with anti-depressants, Craig starts doing better. He sleeps better, he can keep his food down again. And because he feels better, he decides he doesn’t need his pills anymore and stops taking them. This leads to a very close suicide encounter, but Craig realises he doesn’t want to die and he needs to do something about this. He checks himself into hospital, and is then admitted into a mental hospital.
The very nature of how this book is written is quite realistic, and in particular I felt like the characters both in and out of the mental hospital had so much depth to them, that I realise after reading this book that I was picturing this whole story as a movie in my mind and could see each of these characters in detail. That’s how well written this book is. At 444 pages, it’s not normally the type of book I would read in one sitting, but that’s exactly what I did. I really enjoyed the realness of this book.
The characters in the mental hospital though deserve a special mention. Even the growth of some of these characters in the 5 days Craig is admitted for is touching and sweet. Especially the impact Craig has on the other inpatients. There’s some very selfless and tender moments in this book, but isn’t over the top with emotions. It’s beautifully balanced.
Craig’s emotions are so on point for a 15 year old guy that has never been kissed. Unlucky in love, he has watched his crush Nia end up with his best friend Aaron for the last two years and has had to sit by and watch them be happy whilst he’s never been kissed. In the mental hospital, there’s Noelle. She’s just as messed up as he is, but this is something that works for both of them. There’s no judgement or misunderstanding between the two of them. They can just be themselves around each other. Their relationship I thought was really sweet and innocent.
I know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but now that I’ve finished the book, I LOVE the significance of the cover art itself. It wouldn’t be considered a spoiler to talk about it, but I think this is one thing I will let you find out for yourselves if you’re interested in reading the story. I love when we get to discover little gems like this for ourselves. I really did love how it tied in though.
This was such a uniquely told story from a perspective we don’t often get to experience in YA, and I really appreciated the story itself and the voice it was told in. 2014 is the year of unique reads for Kristy and I – venturing out and trying new types of reads all the time. This novel was not something I’d normally pick off the shelf, but I am so happy I experienced this for myself.
“I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.”
“So why am I depressed? That’s the million-dollar question, baby, the Tootsie Roll question; not even the owl knows the answer to that one. I don’t know either. All I know is the chronology.”
“People are screwed up in this world. I’d rather be with someone screwed up and open about it than somebody perfect and ready to explode.”
“I don’t know how I can be so ambitious and so lazy at the same time.”