It's Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Summary from Goodreads:

Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life - which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He 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 the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.


I heard this particular story about a teen being asked this: Why are you depressed? There is so much good in this world? To which he replied: Why do you have asthma? There is so much air in this world. (Teens can be absolutely brilliant.) This kind of lack of understanding is perhaps one of the causes of the stigma surrounding depression. Ned Vizzini in It's Kind of a Funny Story touches on this issue through Craig, the one who sufferes from it. 


“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.”


He has a supportive, loving family, he has gotten into one of the best schools in Manhattan with an 800 out of 800 test score, he has friends, he is practically all set towards being the next President. 


“This was all an excuse, I think. I was doing fine. I had a 93 average and I was holding my head above water. I had good friends and a loving family. And because I needed to be the center of attention, because I needed something more, I ended up here, wallowing in myself, trying to convince everybody around me that I have some kind of. . . disease. I don’t have any disease. I keep pacing. Depression isn’t a disease. It’s a pretext for being a prima donna. Everybody knows that. My friends know it; my principal knows it.”


The whole story acts as a map of Craig's journey, from when he first experienced the physical symptoms, the sweating, the inability to keep food down, to move, to wake up. Then comes the suicide planning. After which, he checked himself in at Six North's psychiatric ward. 


Ned Vizzini manages to keep things light without undermining the severity of depression. Humor is after all a soothing balm. But just like any other mental illness themed books, honesty is key. Even without knowing that this story mirrors the experience Vizzini himself went through, I could tell that every precise description he has of physical and mental anguish, all ring true. He has been in Craig's head space and he writes with a teenager's brio and vulnerability. 


Anyway let's get back to the question of why Craig is depressed? Why do people get depressed? And I think Ned Vizzini was able to shed light to this age old question. Depression is not imaginary but a real disease that has its origin in brain chemistry. I do think it still is, for the most part, an elephant in the room. No, a jabberwocky in the room. A thing so far removed from reality that we say: “It's all in your head.” “Get over it.”, “Snap out of it.” But it's not. And I am glad for books like this, stating the obvious truth. That and for the insight and hope it gives to teens and families and individuals. That there is light under the deep recesses of our messed up, brilliant brains. It takes work and time in finding and maintaining that darned light, but it's there. 

Comments

  1. I have this in my TBR, and contemplating on having it on audio. :)
    Have you seen the movie?

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    1. Oh I think the audio is narrated by Ned Vizzini himself! And yes, I have seen the movie. But it was a long time ago. But I remember liking it. At least liking Emma Roberts in it. :)

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  3. Need to read this soon. I think I'm depressed. Hmmm... I'm kidding.

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    1. I enjoyed this book. The tone is light but it doesn't "make light" of depression. You can do this for one of the riot items. :)

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    2. Why is there a riot in the heart when we (love) read? Hahaha! #troll

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