I’m not technically due to review this for another month or so, but I’m desperate to talk about it RIGHT NOW so you get a frantic blabbery review at a stupid time in the morning. Lucky you. I’ve already harrassed Ellie via Twitter and Facebook (several times, but she’s ignoring me – how rude) and posted a Facebook status for any bookish offline friends (there aren’t many). Pleeeeeease read this.
Warning: complete and total lack of coherent review ahead.
Plot summary: 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.
AARRRRRRRRRRGH. I swear I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or throw up. This book is unbelievable.
Let me start by saying that I really hate (fictional) depressed teenagers. I have the utmost respect and sympathy for the real-life ones, but I find the ones in books to be melodramatic, attention-seeking, petty and have delusions of grandeur. I wanted to feed Sloane to the zombies myself and got three pages into Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock before I hurled it across the room. With some experience of mental health issues myself (although nowhere similar to this level) it can be a touchy subject.
You may wonder why I even read this. And that’s an excellent question. To which I have no clue of an answer. C’est la vie.
It takes a few chapters for It’s Kind of a Funny Story to really find itself. Craig himself is a reasonably likeable character, even from the beginning, but I just couldn’t deal with some of the ‘literative devices’ used, particularly this one:
This was all an excuse, I think. I was doing fine. I had a 93 average and I was holding my head above water. I had good friends and a loving family. And because I needed to be the centre of attention, because I needed something more, I ended up here, wallowing in myself. trying to convince everybody around me that I have some kind of… disease.
I don’t have any disease. I keep pacing. Depression isn’t a disease. It’s a pretext for being a prima donna. Everybody knows that. My friends know it; my principal knows it. The sweating has started again. I can feel the Cycling starting up in my brain. I haven’t done anything right.
I spent a lot of this book rather shellshocked. It’s astounding how well the author managed the transfer all these thoughts to paper. The funny thing is, it’s not even a depressing book… nor is it lecturing. It has quite a light tone, even though it’s a first person narrative of a suicidal teenager. It’s quite chatty and accessible, although it obviously discusses some quite serious subjects.
Some comic relief is added by the other inmates of the psychiatric hospital. They’re quite obviously there to lighten the tone and to help Craig understand what has made his life so unbearable. That said, their conditions are never belittled or laughed at – they are funny, but their illnesses are not, and that’s quite clear.
It’s somehow uplifting. That has nothing to do with the ending, but it makes you feel that maybe everything will be alright. If people can end up in hospitals because they burned out with too much pressure and extracurricular activities, yet somehow still make it… maybe there’s hope for everybody.
I cried like a child when I’d finished this book. I don’t know if you need to have had mental health issues to enjoy/respect this book… maybe. It’s not something I’ve really struggled with myself for a long time, but it still resonated with me. Even if you haven’t, it’s still a great story in itself and you might just learn something.