Review: It's Kind of a Funny Story

Author: Ned Vizzini
Genre: YA Contemporary
Page Length: 444 pages
Publication Date: March 1, 2006
Publisher: Miramax
Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life--which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job--Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That's when things start to get crazy.

At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn't brilliant compared to the other kids; he's just average, and maybe not even that. He starts earning mediocre grades and sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and 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 roommate is an Egyptian schoolteacher who refuses to get out of bed. His neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

Contrary to the misleading title, It's Kind of a Funny Story is Kind of Not a Funny Story.  At all.  

Well, at least the book didn't amuse me.  But you've got to love this scene from the movie:


The book follows the story of Craig Gilner, a teenage boy fighting severe depression.  Craig's just like the rest of us: he's just another guy trying to succeed and constantly (inevitably) worrying about the future.  As a junior in high school, I can relate to Craig's struggles on the most basic level.  No, I do not suffer from depression, but yes, I understand the unbelievable amount of stress loaded onto the shoulders of high school students.  And although I personally did not particularly like this novel, I admired Craig's character.

Craig's spiral into depression all seems to trace back to when he was admitted into "Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School" -- the most academically rigorous, most prestigious school in the area.  To prepare for the entry exam, Craig studied religiously day in and day out, completing practice test upon practice test.  (Sound familiar?)  And this is what I loved about Craig: he seemed like a real, teenage boy, not just a static character on paper.  He managed to come alive.  Craig was honest.  Sweet.  Young.  Just like the rest of us.

I also appreciated how Craig was able to describe exactly what he was going through in a completely new manner.  I've read a number of books focused upon characters with depression, but It's Kind of a Funny Story felt new somehow.  I liked how Craig put his feelings into words.  He referred to stressful things in his life as "tentacles," while things that kept him grounded were known as "anchors."  And Craig connected his inability to eat with the "man in his stomach" tugging on a rope connected to his esophagus.
Just thoughts of what I have to do. Homework. And it comes up to my brain and I look at it and think "I'm not going to be able to do that" and then it cycles back down and the next one comes up. And then things come up like "You should be doing more extracurricular activities" because I should, I don't do near enough, and that gets pushed down and it's replaced with the big one: "What college are you going into, Craig?" which is like the doomsday question.

The main portion of the book, however, deals with Craig checking himself into the hospital and spending a few days in the mental ward.  There he meets quite the eclectic cast of characters who help him through his journey in some way, no matter how minuscule or seemingly insignificant.

Personally, I did not find the majority of the book to be interesting, but nonetheless, I enjoyed witnessing Craig's progress throughout the novel.  While in the hospital, Craig made a number of friends and was able to eat again.  For the first time, I think Craig was able to live a little, smile, and breathe once more.

Craig stresses, however, that he is not cured.  Spending a few days in the mental ward won't easily remedy his medical condition.  But I think what's changed, is that for the first time in a long time, Craig has hope; he looks forward to the future.

I haven't cured anything, but something seismic is happening within me.

Julia's a dreamer. She often zones off periodically throughout the day thinking up plans for the future, pining over fictional characters, and concocting up possible plot lines for stories.

You can find Julia on her main blog, Peach Print, on Twitter @peachprint, on Instagram @yapeach, and of course, right here on the APCB blog.

1 comment:

  1. I read this a while back and did really like it mostly because of how Craig explains things (like what you said with tentacles and all). It was really different from other books I'd read. I especially loved the topics about mental health brought up in this book. I thought the author did a pretty good job exploring them and keeping stereotypes out. That's sad you didn't like it; I hope the next book you read is better!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks


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