Thursday, 17 July 2014
It's Kind of a Funny Story - Ned Vizzini
Synopsis: Struggling with academic and social pressure, one night in the early hours, Craig Gilner's depression becomes too much and he seriously starts comtemplating suicide. However, he checks himself into Six North and put in an adult mental health ward to start working towards getting better. Here, he meets an interesting cast of people who help him move towards facing his depression.
One of the woes of being a reader, a bookseller, or a book blogger is that amongst all these books you consume day in, day out, the books you read, regardless of how good you thought they were, seem to blend all into one. It seems like you've read lots of books over a month because you've been reading constantly, until you discover the total count for the month is only two short books. That is until you find that one book out of 9 or 10 books that really shines out. The one you become completely and utterly besotted with, consuming the pages eagerly, ferociously planning your day around your reading, ready and waiting for the moment you can start reading that book again. Those books are always the ones that stay with you, become rereads, get recommended dozens of times and ultimately, become our favourite books.
This is how I was for Ned Vizzini's IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY. I was on holiday when I was reading this book and found myself waiting somewhat patiently for some free time in between being a tourist, eating and sleeping which meant I could absorb a couple more chapters of this magnificent book. It was utterly brilliant surprise to love this book that much, something I wasn't quite expecting when I first picked it up. I bought this book over a year ago, and I wonder now why I left it sitting on my shelf for so long.
The best way to describe IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY is that it is a novel about depression that is not at all depressing but ends with this new found hope installed within you. It's a book that is needed and highlights a lot of issues young people experience in growing up that perhaps isn't really talked about enough. I mean in literature when is it ever discussed about the impact of the pressure that is placed on a lot of us to do well especially at a school that wants to keep its prestige? I know that throughout my school years and at university, the pressure mounts up continuously as expected when you want to do well and everyone deals with that differently. While some behave as if the potential to not do well is on the same problem level as choosing what to wear in the mornings, there are others where the pressure can take hold. I'm one of the latter, and I can fully understand and believe how something like school can make someone get depressed, like Craig in this book.
Vizzini writes Craig as if he is any other teenage boy. Certainly he is, but as the book goes deeper and Craig comes closer to facing his depression, it becomes clear how real and messed up his problems are. This book is so beautifully written, it's engaging, intelligent and original, making it a delight to read on every page. The characters are truly what make this book even more superb. From the beginning, there is the idea that these characters are too extreme, too crazy, too affected by their problems to enjoy their character and trust what they say. However, through these moments scattered throughout the book, it is evident that all these characters (and there's quite a few) have a brilliant depth to them, and this craziness that we kind of expect without even thinking when someone says 'mental health ward' makes them that much more interesting. They are some interesting voices, including Craig, to tell a novel like this through.
This is a rich, real and insightful novel that is simply a pleasure to read. There are parts which some may find difficult particularly near the beginning, however, the overall feeling of hope by the end of the novel is reason enough to read this book. Depression is a complex issue to write about and even understand and can be misdiagnosed or missed all together, both instances explored in this book.
Something that kept being brought to mind while I was reading was the coverage from book lovers when I found out Ned Vizzini had passed away last year. He writes something special with a richness and emotion that makes this novel so sad, hopeful, exciting and annoying all at the same time. We need more books like this.
I give it a 5 out of 5