Monday, 2 April 2012

Review: It's Kind of a Funny Story, Ned Vizzini

It's Kind of a Funny Story

Ned Vizzini

Hyperion, 2010 (2006)

Ambitious teen Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life--which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job. He accomplishes step one by getting into Manhattan's extremely selective Executive Pre-Professional High School. And that's when things start to get crazy.

At Craig's new school, the pressure is unbearable. There, he's just average, and maybe not even that. He sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. 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 a recovering garbage-head named Bobby who needs his help. There, isolated from the crushing stresses of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

Craig is a teenage boy in the mould of the slightly uncool, unlucky with girls type who eventually wins out. Except Craig's life is in the process of unravelling, and the stresses of his high pressure new school, coupled with everything else, sees him checked into an adult psychiatric facility. The majority of the book deals with Craig's experience in the hospital, the people he meets, and how he slowly manages to piece things back together and figure out the path that's right for him.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Vizzini's own brief time in a psychiatric unit lends the story some authenticity, and Craig's spiralling anxieties were entirely believable. There are some dark moments, particularly when Craig decides he's going to kill himself, but for the most part I found the book to be overwhelmingly positive. Craig's small steps towards recovery--or rather, towards "managing" rather than "curing" his depression--came as a relief to Craig, but also to me as a reader, as the difference in tone starts to turn the story around.

However, although I liked the book, there was something missing in it for me. I can't quite put my finger on it, but perhaps I didn't quite connect with Craig, and once he is in the hospital a lot of the conflict goes away, or is easily solved. It's a nice tale about growing up and dealing with what life throws at you, but in the end it seemed a little bit too Hollywood and not enough real life (even given the experiences of the author). Enjoyable, but just not enough depth.

Overall rating: 6/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.

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