Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Gear-Shiftingly Important
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I purchased this book a full seven months before I read it and I think it's an absolute crime against literature that I waited so long. Then again, I think it was now that I needed to read this book but if I had read it seven months ago it would have definitely still been just as profoundly impacting, just in a different manner.
Anyway, It's Kind of a Funny Story was written from 12/10/04 - 1/6/05, following Ned Vizzini's five day stay in the adult psychiatric wing of the hospital from 11/29/04 - 12/3/04. The book is inspired by his own life events and struggles with depression and chronicles the five day experience in adult psychiatric of protagonist Craig Gilner, who happens to be a young teenager having just started a prestigious high school he worked his butt off to get into. The teen wing is closed for construction and so Craig is thrown in with a whole mix of people, surrounded by young girls his age and middle aged women with no teeth but lots of sass and old men who have definitely seen better days.
The whole book was so well written and well done and just so important. Vizzini dealt with topics like not only depression but just other mental disorders and the way people handle them so well. Most people know that Ned Vizzini killed himself last year and while I remember reading about it when it happened, I didn't remember the time of year, so it was totally coincidental that I was about a third of the way through this book when the first anniversary of his death hit so there's a little tid bit for you. After reading the book, it makes me so much sadder that even after pouring his heart and soul into this book (which, in one tribute article by a close friend of his, is said to have been the case so that's not just an assumption I made) and helping so many people, he still took his own life. The impact he made was immense. With It's Kind of a Funny Story, he created this protagonist who's a teenager overwhelmed by pressure to be the smart kid he's always been, to get A's in this school for overachievers, to be in a relationship, to know where he's going in life, and these are all "tentacles" for him. And he has too many "tentacles" and not enough "anchors" grounding him and giving him a sense of peace. And the kid's only thirteen. And honestly, how many people reading this can relate? Probably a lot. Craig is so well written that if you're not depressed, you still understand him and sympathize and if you are, you find a character to empathize with and root for.
And then other than Craig, there are a whole host of other characters that are diverse and well-written. His roommate, Muqtada, is Egyptian and lies in a depressed slump until Craig brings him Egyptian music to cheer him up. There are two older men who got hella involved in drugs. There's a girl about his age who cut up her face with scissors. All these characters display such varied views of what it's like to live with mental health issues.
The writing itself is done through first person narration via Craig, who, as we established, is fairly young, so everything is written in short, direct sentences, nothing overly flowery or anything, and it fits the tone of the novel. The dialogue is on point and is the driving point behind a lot of the characters, like Humble, one of the residents of the hospital, or Nia and Aaron, two people Craig knows from his life at school, for who the dialogue helps establish how certain mentalities can be toxic and helps them play out certain character tropes.
Overall, I think this novel was phenomenally done and I would recommend it to everyone. It's such an important book and I really think the best way to honor Ned Vizzini's memory is for it to reach as many people as possible and help as many people as possible. I know I'll definitely be rereading it in the future and I know it's definitely the type of book you get something different out of every time you read it or the time in your life you read it so get to it if you haven't
What's the strangest place you've ever stayed?
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Let us know in the comments!