It's Kind of a Funny Story
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.
Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness. For a novel about depression, it's definitely a funny story.
"I used to not want to call them Shrinks, but now that I've been through so many, I feel entitled to it. It's an adult term, and its disrespectful, and I'm more than two thirds adult and I'm pretty disrespectful, so what the hell."
The writing is spare, candid, and vaguely snarky; affirming of the first-person narrative. Craig is passable as an overachieving, anxiety-addled, and sexually frustrated 15-year-old boy. His world is very small and self-centric, while his actual sense of self is severely lacking. He still manages to remain a somewhat sympathetic character for much of the book. (Craig’s few shining moments come predominantly when he’s distracted from himself by the idea of helping out a few of his co-residents during his brief voluntary commitment stay.)
The first 155 pages were a quick and compelling read. I was surprised it took us that long to finally get to the hospital, where I assumed things would get even more interesting. But oddly… that’s where everything slowed down and started to feel more over-written. The air of anguished authenticity petered out—replaced by an atmosphere of patient quirkiness. Craig’s preoccupation turned largely from his reason for being committed to a peculiar combo of do-goodery, and his quest for a sexual outlet (i.e. girlfriend.)
My favorite aspect of this book is the maps. Not just the creative angle, although seeing a character find a productive and healthy coping mechanism is certainly a plus. I particularly appreciated the way it was visually worked into both the cover and the beginning of each chapter. Since the main character does so much mental cycling and wandering, it tied the work together with effective consistency.
Note: I actually saw the movie first. And I’m sorry to admit… I liked it better than the book. The pacing was much tighter, and the movie bolsters some of Craig’s issues with the external pressure of his father being myopic and educationally pushy at inappropriate times.
In the book, however, even Craig notes he doesn’t have any obvious reason for his melancholy state. His parents are “good people”—his mother being exceptionally attentive, and his little sister intuitively keyed to her big brother’s distress. He’s never been abused or molested. And while his parents were to his mind “poor” when he was very young, their financial state has since improved considerably. Craig’s problems instead seem to stem from a poor choice in friends, self-induced academic anxiety, rampant pot usage, sexual repression, aimlessness… and his more recent suicidal ideation most certainly stems from the fact that he’s decided to stop taking his Zoloft prescription cold turkey.
(Which, I will give both the book and movie credit for. They repeatedly make it clear that suddenly stopping a psyche drug is a bad idea. Though, from a medical standpoint, I wish they would have bothered to explain WHY that is.)
The most off-putting aspect of this book, at least for me, is the quasi-romance that’s struck up between Craig and a girl he meets while hospitalized. It is alluded to that Noelle is there because of self-harm, but the few scenes in which they are attempting to get to know each other never came particularly close to convincing this reader of anything but the most shallow of connections. (i.e. they happen to be the same age, and have severe issues with anxiety/depression.) Readers never find out much about either of Craig’s “love”-interests. Both Noelle and Nia come across as concerningly one-dimensional. It’s unclear whether this is because of Craig’s extremely limited perspective, or because there simply wasn’t much thought put into fleshing them out.
Content Note: While the main character is on the young end of the YA target audience, the book makes frequent casual (albeit largely non-graphic) references to drinking, drug use, and sexual acts between 14 and 15-year-olds.
I just finished reading the book It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. It tells the story of Craig Gilner, a fifteen-year-old contemplating suicide. Craig ends up checking himself into a psychiatric ward, where he meets people that change his life and outlook. The story deals with a sad reality about teens and depression. It shows that there is hope and recovery at the end of the tunnel.
Craig Gilner is determined to get into his dream high schoolExecutive Pre-Professional High. He studies for hours each day and carries flashcards with him. He takes the entrance exam and makes a remarkable score. 800 out of 800. This is when things go downhill.
At Executive Pre-Professional, he realizes that hes nothing compared these kids. His grades are mediocre93s, he doesnt do any extra-curricular activities, and his homework is piling up. All he does is hang out with his friend Aaron. Soon, the pressure builds up. He begins having trouble sleeping and cant keep his food down. Then, one day Craig checks himself into a psychiatric hospital for depression. Among the patients is a transsexual, a girl who scarred her face, two ex-druggies, and an Egyptian who spends his day in bed. At the hospital Craig has time to think things over and change things about his life.
Its Kind of a Funny Story is an enjoyable read. Craigs stay at the hospital is a funny one. One of my favorite scenes is when all the patients do art with Joanie. Its like a preschool class. I also liked that Craigs a very relatable character. The book would have fallen flat if he wasnt, really. I recommend you read this book. Its over 400 pages, but the print is large. It can easily be finished in several hours. I look forward to reading more by Ned Vizzini.