It's Kind Of A Funny Story

I read Ned Vizzini's novel, It's Kind of a Funny Story, for the Convent book group, as part of our Mental Health theme. (It turns out that the first week of October, when we hold our meeting, is Mental Health Week -- I did not know this when I scheduled our timetable.)

Fifteen year old Craig has succeeded in entering the selective, demanding high school of his dreams, but now he's having trouble keeping up with his peers. Depression has him by the throat. He can't sleep, he can't eat, he throws up all the time (I know how he feels). One night, gripped by suicidal thoughts, he checks himself into the nearest hospital and ends up spending five days in the psych ward. He meets and befriends some fellow travellers and starts to see a way out of the darkness. At the end of the book, he's not 'cured' but he knows that he's decided to live.

It's Kind Of A Funny Story is not really funny, but it's highly readable and engaging. Ned Vizzini also spent five days in a psych ward near his parents' home the year before he wrote the book, so I think it's fair to surmise that it's based on his own experiences. In the book, Craig is forced to mingle with adults patients because of 'renovations' which smacked of plot device to me, a way that Vizzini could call directly on his own time in the ward and the people he encountered there. But I can forgive that.

What I find harder to deal with is that I put down this life-affirming, encouraging book with its inspiring ending and discover that the author took his own life at the age of 32, seven years after this book was published. Does that fact detract from the positive, uplifting message of the novel? I guess that's something we'll talk about in book group.

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