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.
Vizzini grew up primarily in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. He attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, graduating in 1999. While still a teenager, he began to write articles for the New York Press, an alternative newspaper.
After he wrote an essay that got published by the New York Times Magazine, several of his essays about his young adult life ended up being combined into his first book, Teen Angst? Naaah…. Vizzini attended Hunter College, also located in Manhattan. Ned Vizzini lived in New York City. Vizzini’s characters and situations are said be based upon his time spent at Stuyvesant.
I wasn’t sure about beginning It’s Kind Of A Funny Story particularly in light of Ned Vizzini’s suicide aged 32. It seems to me that comics, writers, poets, and creative individuals have a dark side to them which is often masked by a humorous persona. Obviously the unexpected suicide of Robin Williams, on 11th August, instantly comes to mind, the funny relatable guy, that had us all in stitches. In light of this I wondered how I would respond to reading Ned Vizzini’s novel about a young, teenage boy on the brink of suicide. The title suggested that it would be a light-hearted read. Well only a person who had experienced depression first hand could have written a book that tackled the subject so well, managing to make it a true reflection on the awful tragedy of depression and mental illness, and the stigma that comes hand in hand. There were times when the sheer humanity of life made me laugh, particularly when Craig makes the decision to check himself into hospital and found himself admitted to an adult mental health ward. Ned Vizzini achieves this by making his characters so believable, and engaging. To begin with Craig is freaked out but it doesn’t take long for all his “Cycling,” his relentless thoughts, and his “Tentacles,” his pressures to fall away. The hospital routine is oddly therapeutic. He begins to relax, eat, make friends, starts to understands girls, and grows up. There is hope, and hope is a powerful word. Sadly, even though there is this glimmer of hope there is also a sense of Craig’s vulnerability, he could slip back , the depression is and always will be a part of him. Though, if he holds on to his “Anchors,” those things that keeps him steady, he might just be ok.
I loved the idea of Craig’s “Cycling,” “Tentacles” and his “Anchor,” you will have to read the book to find out what his Anchor is. I don’t want to spoil it for you. But his “Anchor” is just so Craig. We all need an “Anchor!”
So, a wonderful book. The characters are great. The dialogue is spot on. Can’t really find anything to say but positive, positive. Everyone should read it. Every parent, so they don’t push their child into doing something that isn’t right for them. Help, encourage and guide them but don’t pressurise them into doing something that is alien to them. If only every person suffering from anxiety, depression, and mental illness could find their “Anchors” the things that keep them happy, and hold on to them for dear life maybe then they will never have to slip away as Ned Vizzini did. That is the sad truth. So much talent wasted. This is my tribute to Ned Vizzini, sadly, I only discovered his writing now.