Title: It’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!)
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.
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 is a nightmare.”
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.
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? 🙂