It’s Kind of a Funny Story (by Ned Vizzini)

18 11 2012

Ned Vizzini’s fictionalized account of his own short stay at a mental institution really is kind of a funny story. I don’t think a story about depression has been such a fun and uplifting read! Also, there are lots of good John Green & Stephen Chbosky vibes in this book!

Craig Gilner is the 15-year-old protagonist of this completely delightful book about depression, and coping with life. Craig attends the most prestigious (and hard to get into) private school of Manhattan, Executive Pre-Professional High School, but after having studied his butt off to actually get in, he finds the stress and pressure to perform too overwhelming and gets into a downward spiral of not eating, drugs, vomiting, not sleeping, anxieties, … depression. When he stops taking his prescribed meds he almost commits suicide but manages to stop himself just in time and checks himself into a hospital where he ends up in the adult psych wing, Six North. There he meets the other patients for whom life is an almost unbearable chore: Muqtada, his Egyptian roommate, Bobby who serves as a kind of mentor to Craig while in the hospital, Humble, Armelio,… and of course also Noelle, who, like Craig, is also just 15 and is staying at the hospital because she cut up her face with scissors and with whom he develops a more healthy relationship than the crush he had on his best friend’s girlfriend (Nia) outside the hospital.

It’s very easy for a book about depression to become a pity party of the poor little rich boy – because of course, that’s exactly what Craig is – but Vizzini completely overcomes this by his quick-witted writing, the totally relatable and believable characters and the great sensitivity with which he writes about a hard topic like depression. Craig doesn’t understand why he would be depressed. He has everything not to be: stable and supportive family, he is in a good school, has a few friends… an yet, he is. He even feels guilty for being depressed, which of course, makes him even more depressed… The pressure that Craig is under has indeed become a huge almost insurmountable obstacle for a lot a teenagers today: the need to perform, the pressure to get good grades, to have lots of extracurricular activities, the absolute necessity to get into a good college, to always do more and do better … All this leads to anxious teenagers, who – instead of trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be – have to live up to standards they never asked about: those of parents, friends, society… everyone else’s standard, except their own.

All of the characters – not just Craig – have a real ‘personality’, and despite the fact that they’re all in a mental hospital, I’m sure many people (not just teenagers) will recognize that life just is hard sometimes and that you don’t always know how to deal with that. So when Craig talks about his Anchors and his Tentacles, it’s not very hard to relate that to your own existence. Or when Muqtada finally responds to the Egyptian music because it makes him feel more at home, it won’t be hard for anyone with a certain sense of ‘longing’ to comprehend what he means.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is just a really comforting book. And it’s a book with the best message ever to teens: rather than doing and thinking and being what is expected of you, find what is in you, and life will sort itself out.

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22 12 2012
The 12 of 2012! « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Ned Vizzini) […]

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