Title: It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Author: Ned Vizzini
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
My Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
I sort of hesitate calling this a book review, since I’m still getting the hang of them, but here are my thoughts on the most recent book I’ve finished.
The basic premise: An intelligent and driven 16-year-old named Craig has a mental breakdown and winds up in the hospital’s psychiatric unit. We are able to see the world from Craig’s perspective in order to get a better sense of his day-to-day struggles and his views on life. We see the gradual build-up of his problems and the subsequent downfall and aftermath, and through this experience we encounter a cluster of interesting characters.
This is a very special novel. I knew I wanted to read it ever since I first heard about it. Having also suffered from anxiety and depression myself, it’s such a wonderful thing to find fantastic novels about people, especially young people, who suffer from mental illness. I know how isolating it can often be, so it’s powerful to find a story like this to connect to.
Craig is an endearing and insightful young narrator, and each supporting character brings something special to the story. Each sheds light on reactions to mental illness: people who are exploitive, while others are supportive. Other patients expose us to various types of mental illness, and these colorful characters add dimension and a thoughtful reflection to the story. The psychiatric patients seem like actual people, much more than placeholders for mental illnesses. The setting is vivid as well. Everything is accessible, while both familiar and unfamiliar. Descriptions of mental illness demonstrate a lot of heart, and a familiarity and insight that can only be expressed by someone who has experienced something like this.
The story somehow strikes a great balance between realism and humor. It never feels overly dark or pessimistic. It doesn’t shy away from the devastating effects of mental illness, but it deals with these heavy topics in a refreshing way. It’s refreshingly honest.
I can’t ignore the fact that the author Ned Vizzini committed suicide in late 2013. While so tragic, this book he left behind is such a gift.