This has to be my favorite book I’ve read this year. My last few reviews have all had this common theme of, basically, the author is trying way too hard to relate to his audience and it’s kind of gross. Its Kind Of a Funny Story doesn’t try too hard. It tries just the right amount and helped me remember why I spend so much time with books.
Craig Gilner is 15 and attends one of the top public schools in Manhattan. However, he’s not quite sure if he measures up to the other students at the school. The pressure at the school is getting the best of him. To make matters worse, Craig’s best friend Aaron is naturally and effortlessly great at everything… you know the type. Aaron is also dating the beautiful Nia, with whom Craig is in love.
When the pain becomes unbearable Craig does the right thing and sees a psychiatrist. He’s given Zoloft and his life begins to fall back into place. Feeling himself once again, Craig decides he no longer needs the Zoloft. In short order he falls into an even deeper depression than before. His life spirals to the point that he feels his only alternative is to seek immediate help. He calls the suicide hotline and is admitted to a psychiatric ward of a nearby hospital.
This is where the story comes alive. Seeing the other patients at the hospital helps Craig realize that his problems are not insurmountable. Craig begins to feel better with the help and support of those around him.
The novel is beautifully written and feels so authentic because it’s mostly based on the late author’s battle with depression and time he spent in a mental hospital as a teenager. The story isn’t trying to be something that it’s not and that’s rare. It’s laid our in a very straightforward and vulnerable way.
I think my issue with most of the books I’ve been reading lately (and why I appreciate this book so much) is that they’ve all had this element of what I’m going to call the “blind leading the blind effect”. This takes place when you have an obviously talented, funny, and entertaining writer who, for whatever reason, has chosen to take on a subject that for one reason or another he/she is “blind” to. And since we as readers have, for the most part, also never shared this experience, we are “blind” to it as well.
Blind means that the author has never lived what they’re writing about… or hasn’t in thirty years. They may have spent a day researching it to get the dialogue down, but they’re not speaking from a place of authority or past experience and it shows in their writing. Blind is your weird uncle trying to talk to you about your favorite band. It just doesn’t resonate. In other words, blind is what happens when someone just sits down and decides or is assigned to write a YA novel.
These books still make the NYT’s best sellers list because people outside of the intended demographic are reading them or buying them for their kids. It’s also that some of the stories are really fantastic so the author gets a pass. But a lot of the stuff I’ve read lately feels so contrived that I can’t help but cringe. There were no cringe moments in It’s Kind Of A Funny Story.
For purchase below.