“So why am I depressed? That’s the million-dollar question, baby, the Tootsie Roll question; not even the owl knows the answer to that one. I don’t know either. All I know is the chronology.”
― Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Craig Gilner is a freshman at the Brooklyn Executive Pre-Professional High School and suffers from depression. Although he got a top-score at the admission test, he now finds himself strugling with schoolwork, eating, sleeping, and feels disconnected from his friends. When at one night he wants to kill himself, he instead checks himself into the psychiatric hospital. At first he is shocked to find himself there, but he soon adapts to the daily routine and rediscovers what’s important to him.
Craigs depressed feelings will probably be recognized by every high school student, in greater or lesser extent. In my opinion this is a good thing, as the book openly shows depression as an illness and not as something to hide or put away with. The book also shines light upon how life puts on unnecessary pressures, on teenagers, but also on other generations. While reading the book, it becomes readily apparent the author, Ned Vizzini, was writing from a place of depression himself.
I experienced some difficulties with getting into the flow of this book. Probably because the first few pages illustrate Craig ‘chilling’ with his friends, during which some true boy-talk is exchanged. However, after this scene you get a closer look in Craig’s head, which helps you to connect to him and to plunge into the story. However, Craig’s teen obsession with getting girl attention remained a little annoying throughout the book, especially because of his age (15). I guess that if he had been, say, eighteen years old, it had been less annoying and more fit to his character.
Vizzini also makes plenty use of stereotypes and archetypes. Not a bad thing per se, but it was obvious in a way that made some characters a bit unbelievable. The cast of characters was made up of the sort of people you expect to find in a psychiatric hospital, but some of them felt incredibly magnified.
At the end of the book Craig feels better but doesn’t regard himself as ‘cured’. As depression cannot be cured in the same way as a physical illness, this seems reasonable. However, I was not convinced about Craig’s healthier attitude towards life. Mainly because his happiness is partly due to Noelle, a girl he met in the hospital. Honestly, I don’t want to know what happens when Noelle breaks up with Craig. Then again, Noelle was not the only reason for Craig’s recovery.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a book that everyone can relate to. It’s an easy to read piece of literature, which I expect to help others who suffer from more or less the same problems as Craig. A recommender and a book that makes you think. And yes, it is a bit of a funny story.
A note on Ned Vizzini:
The book is assumed to be inspired by Vizzini’s own time in a psychiatric hospital, when he was in his twenties and suffering from depression. After a long battle with the illness, he committed suicide by the age of 32.
Author: Ned Vizzini
Number of pages: 448
Publisher: INGRAM INTERNATIONAL INC
First published: 2006