It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini: I review one of my favourite contemporaries

Title: ImageIt’s Kind of a Funny Story

Author: Ned Vizzini

Genre: YA contemporary

Length: 444 pages

Published by: Disney-Hyperion

Source: borrowed from the school library (I just bought it as well!)

Blurb: 


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-which means 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 isn’t brilliant compared to the other kids; 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.

I really do love this book. It’s not for everyone, I’ll say that right now – there are a lot of one- and two-star reviews on Goodreads. But I’ve borrowed it twice from my school library and eventually bought it on the weekend from the Book Depository. I don’t often buy books so it’s definitely special.

Let’s do a list review. I like those.

1) It’s tremendously honest. 

This is in part because it reflects Ned Vizzini’s own experience. I was so, so, so sad to hear that he died. But this book is important. It talks about mental illness, and at its core it’s really hopeful. For me, at least, it was really powerful, and that’s a lot to do with how honest it is. It doesn’t shy away from big issues, or dramatise small issues – it just is. And it made me want to give everyone a big hug and tell them how special they are.

image

So there we are. Person reading this, you are awesome and special and I hope you’re having a fantastic day. If you’re not, don’t worry – there will be fantastic days ahead of you.

2) It actually is quite funny

It’s not funny in the laugh out loud, hehehehehehehehe funny. Or even the type of funny that’s in The Fault in Our Stars. But at the same time, it doesn’t laugh at the victim. It’s quietly funny. But, like, in a sad way. Wow, my descriptions are not great today. Here’s a passage to kind of show you what I mean.

“What happened when you woke up?” 
“I was having a dream. I don’t know what it was, but when I woke up, I had this awful realization that I was awake. It hit me like a brick in the groin.” 
“Like a brick in the groin, I see.”
“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.” 
“And what is that nightmare, Craig?”
“Life.” 
“Life is a nightmare.”
“Yes.” 

Which is…you know, it’s sad. But it’s relatable, and that’s one of this book’s biggest strengths. Crag Gilner is a fantastic protagonist – that really helps. The fantastic writing doesn’t hurt, either.

3) It’s so different

There aren’t many YA books like this. The setting of a psychiatric hospital are different. The characters, most of whom have mental illnesses, are different. Having school a big focus is different. It’s a really unique book. It includes these things called brain maps drawn by the main character, which is also something I’ve never seen before. The idea is incredible, and reading about them was so interesting. The one below was found here.

It's Kind of a Funny Story by fruitloopcreamsoda

4) No angst

Or at least, it wasn’t angsty angst. Yeah, I’m good at words. What I mean is that there weren’t pages devoted to how much the main character’s life sucked – unlike in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which I didn’t like all that much. The main character really does want to get better.

5) Shows that mental illness can affect anybody

This was something I really liked about it. Craig does well in school, he’s got friends, he’s got a loving and supporting family…this just shows that it’s not a person’s circumstances that determine whether they get a mental illness.

So yeah. I love this book.

Have you read it? Or watched the movie? Would you read it just based on the AWESOME cover? 🙂

 

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15 thoughts on “It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini: I review one of my favourite contemporaries

  1. WHY HAVE I NOT READ THIS?? Okay, I’m going to my library RIGHT NOW to see if I can find it. Because, your review??? This is the kind of book I think I need in my life. Is it feels shredding though? I think my feels have been mutilated forever and for more. >_<

  2. Mental illness books kind of scare me because mental disease can happen to ANYONE, and they make me pretty paranoid. >< I love myself some angst, but not ANGSTY angst. (Don't worry, I get you!) This one has been recommended to me a ton, so I definitely have to bump it up my TBR! ❤

  3. I’ve never read this particular Ned Vizzini book, but I really want to. Like you, I was saddened to hear he’d died and it underscored my desire to read ‘It’s Kind of A Funny Story.’ I I have huge sympathy and compassion for him, and for anyone who struggles with mental illness, and I hope his book will continue to bring solace to others.

    P.S. This was a great review. Thanks. 🙂

  4. I just read a book about a girl who became kind of psychotic. The catalyst was her losing in a swimming competition, and since then she battled through depression and bipolar-ness. But because of her boyfriend cheating, she became really crazy – like she deliberately hurt other people while thinking and believing she was doing it for the better good. And I was so, so, so sad that mental illness was disgustingly used as a plot device for ugly episodes like that. I thought we needed more books that focus on awareness, on portraying them as humans too needing of extra compassion. Looks like this is that kinda book!

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

    • That is sad 😦 when mental illness is portrayed negatively it just feels like a huge step back. Luckily, this book is not like that. Not having had a mental illness, it was really informative and the emotion came through so easily. We need diverse books, not just with race but with everything. Maybe next week can be diverse books week…

  5. I’ve seen the movie, but I have yet to get around to reading the book – I’m always afraid that books about mental illness will use it as a plot device, rather than just as a part of who a character is (if that makes any sense). After reading your review, though, I think I’ll have to bump it up my to-read list a bit. 🙂

  6. Woah….this book sounds really sad and touching at the same time, with a different kind of humour. I love how it talks about mental illness, I’m going to have to add this to the TBR. Great review Emily! Thanks for recommending!

  7. Wow, Emily – thank you SO SO SO much for this beautiful review. I haven’t heard of this book before, but now I definitely want to pick it up. Mental illness is still such a taboo topic in society, so it’s refreshing to have a book that deals with it so honestly. I’m sad to hear that the author has passed as well, but at least he’s left behind a beautiful legacy in written form. Thank you for sharing this, I can’t wait to pick up this book. xx

  8. Pingback: What Happened This Month: diverse book week, TFIOS movie and so much school | The Loony Teen Writer

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