Title: It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Author: Ned Vizzini
Publisher: Hyperion (Disney)
Time taken to read: 4 days
Goodreads synopsis: Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He 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, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety. Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness.
I’ve been meaning to read this book for, like, my entire life. (This is true about a lot of books.) I give it five stars very tentatively because I did not like the main character at first. I do not like drugs. I think drugs rot your brain, and if you’re interested in being successful, you should avoid them at all costs. But it’s not like it’s unrealistic for a story–that’s what kids do. Not me as a kid, but many kids. I also don’t like male main characters because girls rule and boys are ugly and gross.
I really enjoyed the writing in this book. The main character’s voice is very strong and very funny and straightforward. I felt like I could relate to Craig a lot, and therefore to the author as well. I spent one beautiful week in a psych hospital when I was seventeen. I did not check myself in, but similarly to Craig, I came out feeling fantastic, and I also played a lot of card games. There were honestly so many thoughts that Craig had that I have had myself, some word for word. For example,
…there’s no hope for me but being homeless, because I’m never going to be able to hold a job because everyone else is so much smarter.
Then there’s the part where he talks about wishing he was an octopus. I wouldn’t want to be a sea creature because I’m afraid of water, but I always think about how nice it would be to be a cat. Cats don’t need jobs. They just need naps. And then, a more random scene, Craig asks his psychologist how he got started in his job. I don’t know if this is weird, but I’ve never heard anyone else say this–but I’m weirdly obsessed with finding out how people ended up at the jobs they’re in. Maybe it has something to do with how I’m desperately trying to get my career started, but I’m basically always asking people for their resumes.
I thought that the stress that kids feel in school was a much more recent thing. Ten years ago is still pretty recent, but things were really different even then, I think. I don’t think Ned Vizzini realized just how relatable this would be in the future. Even though I’m almost seven years older than the main character, his reality and mine are so similar. I did the studying, and I passed the tests, I got the degree, and now everything feels so overwhelming, and it leads me to hours of watching television because writing cover letters feels so pointless because no one will ever want to hire me, either because I’m garbage or because I’m just under-appreciated, depending on how extreme my mood is. While I was reading this, I was thinking to myself, “Damn, Vizzini really knows depression.” And then I realize, of course he did. He committed suicide. I cannot imagine being successful, living your dream, and still not wanting to live. That is a level of grief beyond anything else, and I mourn for him and the books he could have written that could have helped more people like me feel less alone in our struggles.
My main criticism is that it took a little while for this book to really get going. It was a little slow until the night Craig checked himself into the hospital. Otherwise, it’s very much worth the read. In other news, my B&N featured this blog on their Instagram/Twitter today, so check that out!!