In the words of Teen Vogue, this is "A book about depression that's not the least depressing". I could not have summed the book up any better. Although the book covers incredibly serious topics, Vizzini explores these issues in such a witty, insightful and comical way that you cannot stop yourself crying with laughter, so much that your belly hurts and you're clapping like a crazy seal (save yourself the embarrassment and admit it-we've all been there at one point or another). So to sum it up, lets just say the book really is, "Kind of A Funny Story"
So here's a little plot summary:
Craig Gilner is an ambitious teen from New York. He suffers from everyday stresses such as forgetting to reply to his emails, girls and the pressure to succeed in life. He believes that every little thing he does will affect something later on - to succeed at life he must get into the right high school which means performing well at middle school in order to get into the right college to get the right job. However, once Craig finds himself with top entry marks into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School (Americas version of Eaton I believe), the pressure becomes unbearable. Craig stops eating and sleeping and is driven on pure anxiety, until, one day, he almost kills himself. In a turn of events, Craig's suicidal episode gets him admitted into a mental hospital, and as the teen ward is under renovation, he is admitted into the Adults ward. Here Craig meets some surprising, yet hilarious and more real than life fellow patients who change his life until he finally able to confront his sources of anxiety.
After reading the first few pages of a new book, you know instantly whether you will like it or not. I knew I was going to like this book from the first sentence. Somehow, Vizzini puts a humorous spin on a negative situation which adds to the wit and cleverness of this book. He has taken such a deep and serious topic taken and conveyed it in incredibly effective simple thoughts and scenarios that anybody can relate to.
As cliché as it is, by the end of the book some of the characters feel like your best friends. This is down to the accuracy and exploration into the characters lives. Craig is a brilliant representation of what it's like to be a teenager today and his fellow patients in the hospital are also hilarious and will change your ideas of what people with mental illness are really like.
The story follows Craig's development as a character. The story is told in first person, which adds a personal touch. Craig experiences what it is like to be young, even if his friends are mental patients and his girlfriend has scarred her own face with scissors. By the end of the book, Craig realises what he has been missing out on and the 'tentacles', the things that caused his anxiety could be easily overwhelmed by the 'anchors' - the good things in life, such as Noelle, his girlfriend. Unlike many books about depression whereby the character passes away at the end of the novel, this book had a happy ending with a clear, positive message. Craig finally decides to live, and for real this time.
What I found captivating about this book was that Ned Vizzini based this book on his own experiences. Vizzini spent five days in adult psychiatric in Methodist Hospital, Park Slope, Brooklyn 11/29/04- 12/3/04. He wrote this novel 12/10/04-1/6/05. I think that this created such a raw yet devastatingly honest tone which you cannot help but to adore.
But apart from everything else, this book has such a valuable moral to it. Mental health is not an issue to be overlooked. Depression and suicide are so much more common than you would believe, and just putting in that little extra effort by smiling at someone, or telling somebody they look nice, could really help that person. Because people suffering with mental illness' are not always obvious. You could be sitting next to somebody right now who feels alone and like the world is against them. So go on, start a conversation, and just let them know that they are not alone.