Craig Gilner, like many students in New York, suffers from depression. It all starts when Craig, after months of months of tireless studying, is accepted into the overly demanding Executive Pre-Professional High School in Manhattan. Everything should be perfect from here; prestigious high school which should lead the right college, then the right job, and that’s it– life is set. But when the 100%’s in junior high become oh-so-terrible 93%’s at Executive Pre-Professional, work starts piling up, and Craig still isn’t doing as many extracurriculars as he thinks should be… He becomes physically unable to eat, stresses instead of sleeps, and he goes off his medication. The pressure builds until a breaking point, when Craig plans his own suicide and nearly kills himself.
On this anxiety-filled night Craig decides to call a suicide hotline and is convinced to check in to his local hospital, Argenon Hospital, where is becomes a visitor in the psych ward. During Craig’s stay at North Six, he meets a circus of characters with their fair share of mental illnesses. Craig’s interactions with his family and friends in the outside world and new neighbors inside the adult psych ward shape his perspective on the world. He learns more about himself, the people he thought he knew, and people he never thought he would meet.
While the topic of It’s Kind of a Funny Story is incredibly somber and serious, Ned Vizzini finds a way to make you laugh and smile at some of the most inappropriate times. Most teenagers at some point have thought about depression and this book somehow provides reassurance that sure, you may think you’re crazy, but in our own ways we are all just as crazy as people in a psych ward. We just show our craziness in different ways. The book combines many captivating levels of complexity; Craig’s personal journey, how it affects his friends and family in the “outside world”, the personalities of the other patients, and the balance between patient and outsider in the hospital. All of these aspects of the story blend together to make a page-turning plot. When I first heard about the story I thought it was only going to be about Craig’s personal journey and inner struggles but the plot plays with so many themes and little moments that it is impossible to get bored. The writing style was well done, however in the beginning of the book I thought Craig had some minor autism due to his obsession over his flashcards and social anxiety. After Craig checks into the hospital I no longer thought this but it seemed like Craig gained a lot of social confidence the minute he checked in which was slightly farfetched. The narration really had the feel of a high school guy which helps the reader think more about the story than figuring out the character. This book has some more mature content (drug use, described sexual activities, etc.) so I would recommend it for readers over the age of 14.
This book mirrors many aspect of the author Ned Vizzini’s life. He went to the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and spent time in a psychiatric hospital, New York Methodist Hospital. In 2013 Vizzini committed suicide at the age of 32 after suffering from depression for many years.