Vizzini, Ned. (2012). It’s Kind of a Funny Story. New York, NY: Miramax Books/Hyperion Books For Children. ISBN 9780786851973.
Craig Gilner is a Manhattan teenager who is in over his head. With the pressure to get into a good high school so he can get into a good college so he can get a good job mounting, he starts to lose himself. After being accepted into a Pre-Professional high school he realizes he can’t keep up and maybe doesn’t belong. He has trouble eating and sleeping before becoming suicidal which eventually causes him to do a stint in a mental hospital.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story is well, kind of a funny story, written as a first-person narrative from the point of view of Craig. It is an unusual coming of age story and a romance about a teenager in an adult psychiatric facility. As appropriate for the target audience, the book has much more subtle humor rather than actual laugh-out-loud, literal humor. Humorous and surprising situations are sprinkled throughout the book casually. Even though the story is littered with some pretty heavy issues, you can’t help but laugh at it all. Vizzini uses humor to present some difficult material and somehow makes a book about depression not depressing.
Craig is a very real, honest, and genuine character. Right from the start you really feel for him. He is going through a lot and he is proud of how far he has come but feels like he isn’t good enough to maintain it or go any further. He has friends and a loving family, but at fifteen the pressure to succeed is already too much for him. Young readers can identify with much of what Craig is going through or feeling.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story doesn’t just have a few characters; you’ve got a variety of personalities on every page. Before going to Six North, the hospital’s mental floor, Craig has friends and family that you meet. Once in the hospital, you now have a whole set of new people who will entertain you. Even those characters will small roles in the story add so many dimensions to Craig’s experience there.
The book’s biggest weakness is the pacing. The beginning drags on and on and it seems like Craig will never eat or sleep or have a shift back to his former self. The book eventually picks up speed and you are left with a funny story about some not so funny events and you almost feel bad laughing at it. But just almost since it is kind of a funny story.
This book was later made into a movie by the same name. They sped the pacing of the beginning up a lot. Watch the trailer here: