Tuesday, April 19, 2011
REVIEW: It's Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Ned Vizzini, the talented young author of Be More Chill (the first YA novel selected as a Today show book club pick), crafts another superb study of angst-ridden adolescence in this story of teen depression. Craig Gilner is a gifted 15-year-old boy who works hard to get into a fiercely competitive high school, then crumbles under the intense academic pressure. Blindsided by his inability to excel and terrified by thoughts of suicide, Craig checks into a psychiatric hospital where he finally gets the help he needs. Vizzini, who himself spent a brief time in psychiatric "stir," invests his novel with great emotional honesty. A graceful, skillful, and witty handling of a sensitive issue, this is an important book we heartily recommend for older teens.
I really loved this one. It isn't quite what I expected, but now that I've read it and am sat here trying to review I now can't remember what it is that I thought this book would be. If that makes sense?
It's the story of a teenager, Craig Gilner and how he came to end up in a psychiatric ward. I've seen other people mention that It's Kind of A Funny Story has a slow start, but I really loved the build-up. It was really interesting to learn more about Craig, his friendships and his family. He's worked incredibly hard in order to get into this really prestigious New York City high school, but once there Craig can't seem to handle the pressure. And the knowledge that he isn't able to succeed in this new environment really gets to him.
Craig is soon unable to eat or sleep. In fact, he really finds no pleasure in anything anymore (peeing aside!). He feels increasingly left-out amongst his friends at his last high school. Despite having this group of friends and despite having wonderful parents and a great life, Craig is depressed and when thoughts of killing himself keep him up at night, he calls for help before he can do himself any harm. When the woman answering the suicide hotline answers, she tells Craig to go straight to the emergency room. There, Craig is admitted to the psychiatric ward.
What I loved so much about this book is how I could relate to so much of Craig's experiences. Struggling under academic pressure, the guilt associated with feeling depressed. I think that It's Kind of A Funny Story felt very realistic in terms of what Craig went through and how his outside relationships were handled as well as the complicated and interesting relationships that occur within the psychiatric ward.
I really loved the characters we meet inside the hospital. Everyone is messed up in their own ways, but I love the comraderie and the ways in which Craig fits in here and manages to help others out as well as realising some truths about himself and what he wants out of life. I think that this book would have been perfect for me to have read as a teenager as I think it really would have helped me to put some perspective on my own situation.
Craig is a really engaging and wonderful character. The insights into his life, his friends and family that he shares are sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes hilarious but always very honest. I'm so glad that I read this book and I can now highly recommend it!