This past weekend, the film adaptation of Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story opened in theaters across the country. Vizzini’s book centers on a smart teenager named Craig Gilner, who has had growing issues of anxiety and depression since joining an extremely selective, intense private high school in Manhattan. After obsessively studying and getting a perfect score on the entrance exam, Craig finds himself in way over his head, drowning in a sea of labs and math equations. Partying and pining for his best friend’s girl doesn’t help matters either.
Craig can’t sleep or eat. During an especially fitful day, he makes a decision to call 1-800-SUICIDE. Their suggestion for him to check into an emergency room brings Craig to Six North, a Brooklyn psychiatric hospital...for adults. There Craig finds a collection of people at least twice his age with a variety of mental issues. Strangely enough, he finds it incredibly easy to make friends. Craig starts to compare his issues to his new peers, and finds life in Six North to be simultaneously simpler and more complicated than his regular life. His own evaluation of life, friendships, and his doctors help to push Craig in a better direction.
Author Ned Vizzini
dealt with similar issues in his own life. His first book Teen Angst? Naaah
was published when he was only nineteen. Some of the stresses associated with that early success brought Vizzini to his own five day stay at a hospital in Brooklyn. The book manages to illuminate a real modern issue of the amount of pressure that smart, hardworking teenagers put on themselves in order to feel validated. Rather than shove his message in the reader’s face, he balances it with subtle humor and a realistic teenage character. Craig sometimes fall prey to the weaknesses of being young, but he tries to do the best that he can. The book’s cover is a reference to Craig’s childhood hobby of creating maps from his imagination. He picks this hobby up again in Six North, but frames his maps in a drawing of a head, almost in an attempt to make sense of how his brain is working. Getting inside of Craig’s head, as this book does, is an emotional, but clever, treat.