Sunday, 7 September 2014

Review || It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini ★★★☆☆
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.

General spoilers for the book in this review. 
Read at your own risk!

I liked this book.

But that's about as far as it goes. Just "like". 3 stars.

What starts off as a raw and honest look at depression gets a little derailed by romantic entanglements by the end.

Craig is relateable. Overwhelmed by academic pressures and spiraling into suicidal thoughts. I understand the pressures he is experiencing, because I too was concerned about my grades--though not nearly to the same extent. I saw a bit of myself in Craig, and at times it made my gut churn.

The book offers a relatively realistic look at therapy and hospitalization. (I say this given my limited experience with both, but having seen some of the process because my mother deals with both anxiety and depression.) However, despite Craig's understanding that this is only the beginning upon his discharge, five days seemed like an unrealistic turn around time. Though, I did appreciate the open endedness.

Craig's family is another one of the high points for me in this book. Wonderfully supportive and doing the best they can to help. It was nice to see.

Still, the book is not without flaws. The treatment of a trans* character in this book was deplorable and made me very uncomfortable. What's worse was that it didn't really seem to do anything to further the story. It was just a throwaway moment for... what? Comedy? Supremely unfunny.

And I think the whole thing would've been stronger without any of the romance. Sure, including Craig getting over Nia is an important step in his recovery, but I don't think he needed to make out with her in the hospital.

Noelle seemed to be a last minute love interest thrown in for the sake of Craig having some prize to obtain at the end of his struggle. She shows a lot of potential during her few short appearances, but is generally done a disservice by the narrative.

So. 3 stars. I liked it. I'd encourage others to give it a try and see for themselves.