I have been reading ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ by Ned Vizzini after being tempted into buying the book by the numerous great reviews. I must say that, despite having my initial doubts over whether I’d like the book, I absolutely loved it. To concur with the New York Times, it really is an important book! It discusses so many issues that I firmly believe young people should be exposed to, from mental illness and the stigma surrounding it to death. It may not be a perfect book, but credit must be given to Vizzini for using his tome to tackle so many issues that have a profound, and sometimes negative, affect on modern society.
Upon opening the book my first impression of its protagonist Craig was negative due to the childish interaction between him and his friends, however he soon went up in my estimations as I found myself beginning to feel sympathy for him over his depression. The description of Craig’s mindset was both heartbreaking and beautiful when his negative thoughts were discussed. I was particularly moved when he looked back in time and recounted childhood memories, as it was wonderful to observe the character in a time when he was happy and unaffected by the mental illness that would later have a huge impact on his day-to-day life. It was flashbacks such as these that gave the reader an insight into Craig’s mentality and allowed them to understand his strange thoughts and feelings. Describing the lengths he goes to to cope with his depression, which manifest themselves in the form of the invention of all kinds of bizarre characters, really makes the reader feel as though they know the character on a very personal level. I genuinely liked Craig, finding that I agreed with his views on issues such as religion and thinking him both grounded and sensible. My one criticism of Vizzini’s character development would be that he tries too hard to make Craig and his friends seem mature during the flashbacks to Craig’s happier days- would thirteen year olds really have access to drink and drugs? That did seem unrealistic, but most other aspects of the novel, including Craig’s reluctance to attend his medical appointments were very realistic. It was interesting to find that Craig was highly intelligent without ever becoming abnormal or irritating. From a personal point of view, every teenager knows what Craig means when he simply feels as though he’s ‘not good enough’ and struggles to meet the expectations of others. I also know what it’s like to feel that the medical and/or the educational system are failing you! In terms of Craig’s friends, the way Aaron reacted to finding out he had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital made me detest him. I later hated Aaron’s girlfriend Nia when she became simpering and used Craig. On the other hand, I loved Noelle from the off and thought she was a fascinating character. The only thing I didn’t like about her was that she was yet another thing that brought out the slightly irritating, girl-obsessed side of Craig. That being said, as a whole I loved the character and found I shared many of his cynical views on life.
In regards to Vizzini’s writing, the descriptive passages of the novel were absolutely beautiful. Furthermore, his funny narrative prevented the book from ever becoming truly depressing or unpleasant to read. There are several quotes from the book that are absolutely wonderful and really make a person reexamine their perspective on life. As a mentally ill man, Vizzini really understood the mindset of someone suffering from depression. ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ was one of those books that is so easy to read you can read a hundred pages without realising you’ve read more than twenty! There was the odd mistake in the writing, although for a Young Adult novel the prose was wonderful. It cannot be denied that Vizzini had genuine talent and will be missed by everyone who has enjoyed his work- RIP! Knowing that the author of this novel committed suicide in real life manages to make the book seem even more genuine and heartfelt. One of Vizzini’s best decisions in relation to this novel was to write in the first person, as it makes everything seem much more exhilarating when events are occurring in the present. The first person narrative also ensures that the readers feel well acquainted with Craig, and that they are happy when he is happy. On a sadder note, the author excels at describing how Craig’s depression is triggered by events happening in the world around him. Moreover, he plays on how Craig feels when society perceives him as an ‘attention seeker’. The only thing about the way this book that really annoyed me was the fact ‘is like’ was frequently used after the characters had spoken.
With regards to the book in general, I loved the idea of Craig channelling his artistic talent into his map based artwork and that several parts of the book reflected this- especially the map based drawings at the beginning of each of the novel’s sections. The actual content of the book had quite an impact one me too, especially as I realised that I felt strangely attached to and sorry for Craig’s fellow psychiatric hospital residents. I felt especially attached during hilarious, surreal moments such as the Six North card game and the argument over buttons! Overall, I was simply incredibly happy that the book ended happily, and rounded everything off nicely.
‘I think about how much this means to this guy, about how much more important this is than going to any high school or getting with any girl or being friends with anybody. This guy just got a place to live. Me? I have one. I’ll always have one. I don’t have any reason to worry about it. My stupid fantasies are about ending up homeless are just that- the fact is that my parents will take me in anytime, anywhere. But some people have to get lucky just to live. And I never knew I could make anybody lucky. If Bobby can get a place to live, I think, then I can get a life worth living‘.