It's Kind of a Funny Story

Book review by
Joe Applegate, Common Sense Media
It's Kind of a Funny Story Book Poster Image
Brilliant, edgy story about suicide best for mature teens.
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 9 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Author Ned Vizzini set to work on this novel one week after leaving the adult psychiatric unit of a Brooklyn hospital, with all the clinical details fresh in mind. It's Kind of a Funny Story is a primer on the symptoms and remedial approaches to depression and other forms of mental illness. It stresses, sometimes too much, that mental illness is nobody's fault, so there's nobody to blame when someone ends up in the hospital. 

Positive Messages

"Everybody has problems, some people just hide their crap better than others," says 15-year-old Craig to a fellow patient in the psychiatric unit. It's Kind of a Funny Story points out relentlessly that mental illness is a condition that can be remedied and even cured, so long as it is recognized and dealt with frankly. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Craig calls a suicide hotline just as he's leaving home to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. The book hammers on the point that mental illness hurts, sometimes so much that choosing to go on is an act of heroism. Craig's mom and the hospital staff all call Craig a hero, because he makes the choice alone at the lowest point in his life. 

Violence
Sex

Kissing, heavy petting, and references to masturbation are the boundaries here; nobody actually goes to bed. But the descriptions are graphic. "We press against each other as if we both had prizes at the back of our mouths and we could only get them out with the tips of our tongues."

Language

Four letter words are absent, but everywhere the language is salty: "bitch," "ass," "fart." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Craig is drawn into smoking pot with his best friend Aaron, whose bedroom, with its own ventilation system, is a teen stoner's dream. Elsewhere, kids drink booze, and one is described as having snorted Ritalin. As the book goes deeper into the world of psychiatric care, recreational drugs are shown to have claws. 

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.    

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byShay Ford May 21, 2014

Good!

My son loved this book. I thought it was a little mature for him to read, but he really enjoyed and connected with the characters. If you are unsure about this... Continue reading
Adult Written bymarcyka February 7, 2015

a little good, a little bad

All in all, i'm a bit upset about the couple of parts that to into detail of a guy fondeling the girls privates. And the parts where it made it seem like i... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byPeacemaker2000 July 10, 2013

Great and Inspirational

This book is one of my absolute favorites. It is about a 16 year old boy named Craig who is depressed due to pressure and stress from his school and his friends... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byem.m_carter May 25, 2018

Take Seriously, but not too seriously

I don't think there really was too much of anything, but I suppose it really depends on the age of the reader. It should be understood that the average 15... Continue reading

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? 

Book details

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