Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: It's Kind of a Funny Story

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Goodreads description:

Craig Gilner is a gifted 15-year-old boy who works hard to get into a fiercely competitive high school, then crumbles under the intense academic pressure. Blindsided by his inability to excel and terrified by thoughts of suicide, Craig checks into a psychiatric hospital where he finally gets the help he needs. Vizzini, who himself spent a brief time in psychiatric "stir," invests his novel with great emotional honesty. A graceful, skillful, and witty handling of a sensitive issue, this is an important book we heartily recommend for older teens.

First sentence*: It's so hard to talk when you're trying to kill yourself.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One of the quotes on the back of this book says this is "a book about depression not the least bit depressing," and that description fits this novel perfectly. I know it seems wrong and, well, kind of impossible, but this book is hilarious. The clever and original style had me laughing at loud (and earning stares from strangers) during almost every chapter.

There's just something about Craig's voice - he doesn't take himself too seriously, and he thinks of the world in ways I had never considered before. His way of speaking is amazing; he has original terms for every part of his psychological state and development: the Tentacles, the Anchors, the Cycling, the Shift, fake shifts....Those terms are catchy and made it so easy for me to really understand his mental illness. He was easy to relate to from the beginning on. Especially his feelings on academic pressure I could relate to - I think that's something all of us have felt, albeit not as extremely as Craig.

The secondary characters were great as well, especially the ones at the psychiatric hospital.They were complex, original, vivid and entertaining. Obviously, all of them had some type of mental illness, and while most of them were pretty messed up (sorry, can't think of a better way to say that), they all stayed real and understandable. Especially Noelle was a great character, and I loved her realtionship with Craig.

I'm not sure, though, how I feel about the characters outside the facility. The parents were okay, but Craig's friends were kind of strange. Him being in love with Nia, his best friend's girlfriend, was helpful to explain his situation in the beginning, but I don't really get what the later developments of those relationships added to the main plot - they were just kind of off-putting.

At first, I didn't really get the cover of this book, but now that I know the story behind the brain maps, I love the cover! I loved reading about Craig's art and how that helped him. Especially knowing Ned Vizzini spent some time in a psychiatric hospital like Craig did, and knowing he started writing this novel a few days after he was released, makes this part of the story even more realistic and enjoyable.

The writing was great - raw and unpretentious. There was one little thing that annoyed me, though: Quite often, instead of writing "(dialogue)," said (character), or something along those lines, the author wrote "(dialogue)," (character) is like. If there was some deeper meaning to that way of writing, I'm sorry, but I just didn't get it, and honestly, that was kind of annoying. That's just one little thing, though.

Overall, It's Kind of a Funny Story is a great book. Ned Vizzini someow managed to mix a fun, self-deprecating style with a great, life-affirming message.The voice and the characters are great. I definitely recommend it - even to those, who usually steer clear of such heavy topics.

*I've decided to add the first sentence of books to my reviews - I think they're usually really important for a book, and the first sentence or paragraph often already determine whether or not you're pulled into a story, so they can help you decide whether or not you're interested in reading the books I review. Let me know in the comments whether I should add the first sentence of books to all my future reviews!


  1. This is one of my favorite books of all time. I haven't seen the movie yet though. The first line idea is a good one. I had forgotten how great the first line was of this one.


  2. Great review!! This sounds like a very interesting read. I'm definitely going to be adding it to my tbr list! Thanks for sharing!

  3. This was a great book! I hated the movie, but I agree, the book was hilarious :)


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