A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that It's Kind of a Funny Story deals with teen depression and suicide, and is based on author Ned Vizzini's five days in the adult psychiatric unit of a Brooklyn hospital. It's the story of 15-year-old Craig, a high school freshman who collapses under the pressures of a demanding school, sexual desire, jealousy, and party drugs. The book's eye is on the humorous and its ear catches the way teens, a middle-class New York family, hospital staffers, and phychiatric patients talk and interact. It's sometimes raw and always entertaining. No sexual intercourse is depicted, but there are scenes of petting, as well as teen use of marijuana and alcohol, and snorting the prescription drug Ritalin, and discussion of adults who use drugs to mask depression. But Craig has a solid, loving family, and is a good role model in that he seeks help in dealing with his depression. The book was made into a movie of the same name in 2010.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Craig Gilner, who loved to doodle as a child, gets serious about preparing for the entrance exam to the prestigious Executive Pre-Professional High School in Manhattan. Opening the fat acceptance envelope is the happiest moment in Craig's young life, and it's downhill from there. Nine months later, unable to compete with his classmates, unable to accept his best friend's relationship with a sexy girlfriend, unable even to hold down his food, 15-year-old Craig rises early one morning with a plan to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. Instead, he walks into the emergency room of a nearby hospital ... and into the adult psychiatric unit, where he faces his anxieties and his art flourishes.
Is it any good?
There are a few cliched characters, such as Craig's adoring younger sibling and bumbling dad, but what sets this book apart is the quality of writing. The pain of having an endless to-do list for school, of trying to keep one step ahead on the good-grades, good-college, good-job track, of trying to please parents who mean well but also keep a sharp eye on their bright child's "amazing journey" -- this is the pain that IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY compellingly describes, and that many kids can relate to.
Craig describes the accessory-heavy style of his dreamgirl classmate this way: "I think her accessories were a courtesy meant to distract from her small, lucrative body and baby-doll face." A parent-free teen party in a Manhattan apartment is rendered in wild, sensational detail, and so is a poker game played by a cast of mentally stricken patients. If your teen is ready for the graphic (but not lewd) descriptions of petting and the pervasive use of drugs, this will be a dazzling read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about depression. Describe the lowest point in your life. What made it better?
What other book about depression or mental illness have you read?
Can you relate to feeling pressure to be a high achiever? How do you cope with competitiveness at your school?
- Author: Ned Vizzini
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publication date: April 2, 2006
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 448
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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