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It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Arg, this review has been sitting in my drafts folder for almost a month, and there are so many things I want to say about this book, but I just can’t quite figure out how to put them all together. The problem is, my enjoyment of it is so completely wrapped up in where I was when I read it, that it's hard to separate the two.

As I was planning my trip to New York, I happened to find out (via E. Lockhart’s blog ) about a Reading at Books of Wonder. I had only read E. Lockhart’s books before, but I had a review copy of It’s Kind of a Funny Story, so I decided to take it with me and read it on the plane. Which normally doesn't really work out for me.* Usually, I'm too excited to be able to concentrate, so I end up buying a magazine to browse on the plane.**

But Vizzini's writing completely grabbed my attention, and by the time we landed at LaGuardia, I had somehow read 350 pages***. And I have to say, there's something pretty awesome about being several thousand feet in the air, sipping apple juice, listening to one of my favorite CDs (Imogen Heap) on my iPod, and reading a really good book.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is the story of Craig Gilner, a fifteen-year-old who has a breakdown and ends up in a mental hospital. The novel begins in the present, with Craig finishing (or not finishing) his freshman year at a prestigious high school, and then jumps back two years to describe the relentless studying he did to get into said high school. When it jumps back into the present again, Craig is seriously considering suicide. After a call to the suicide hot-line, he checks himself into a hospital, where he ends up in the psychiatric ward for adults (the juvenile wing is being remodeled).

While that may sound rather dark, it's not. Vizzini manages to keep the writing light and humorous even when the themes are definitely not. For example, the other patients in the mental hospital are, well, different, and some of the things they do seem absolutely ridiculous, but they still seem like people rather than simple caricatures.

And there were times when I just had to laugh out loud (though, being on a plane, I tried to control myself). Like the following example from when Craig is in the hospital:

"'I'm Dr. Data.'

'Dr. Data?'


Huh. I want to ask her is she's an android, but that wouldn't be very respectful" (163).

or this one about his childhood love of drawing maps:

"...and then you were in Harlem, where Manhattan effectively ended for little white boys who made forts under encyclopedias and studied maps" (22).

Okay, I'll stop with the gratuitous quoting. (Trust me, I could keep going).

It's Kind of a Funny Story is a great read for anyone dealing with depression or mental health issues (their own or those of someone close to them), or simply, for anyone dealing with the stresses that come with growing up and having to make life decisions (which would be basically everyone). Oh, and it's out in paperback now, so go read it!

If all you were looking for was a review, you can stop reading now, because I'm about to go on a bit of a digression...

As I've mentioned before, my boyfriend and I have this ongoing debate about our reading habits, but I begged, and he agreed to go to the reading at Books of Wonder with me. So, as we’re walking towards the subway station, he’s carrying the book for me (since I was carrying my purse and my camera), and jokingly holding his hand over the spine so no one can see that it’s a teen book.

We get on the downtown 1 train, and he opens the book, just to see what it's all about. He reads the first page, then keeps going. The subway gets stopped (stuck behind several other downtown trains), and he keeps reading. After the first chapter, he turns to me: “I could actually read this,” he says, sounding a little surprised. I just smile and nod, having already decided that somehow or other, he was going to read it.

*After reading the first two Wheel of Time books, I took the third one on the flight to Spain (summer 2004), and I still haven't gotten through the prologue.

**I love going into airport newsstands, buying Cosmo en EspaƱol and watching the reactions of the sales clerks, which are generally some variation on "Does the little white girl realize that magazine isn't in English?" (For those new to this blog... I majored in Spanish. I'm pretty sure I can read Cosmo.)

*** We did spend about 45 minutes just sitting on the runway in Norfolk waiting to take off.


Jackie said...

Aw, that's totally cute with your boyfriend!

Is it odd that I also read it on a plane?

(also, I totally tagged you with a meme)

Jackie said...

Nevermind, I see that ZG tagged you, I'll find someone else...

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