Sunday, 29 December 2013

171/111 - It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

This is one of the books I received for my birthday yesterday, and since I've been hungover in my flat all day today, I decided to crack this open to read and I blasted through it. It's been on my amazon wishlist now for a couple of years, but I never got around to buying it because I don't buy much from there and this is an American book, so none of the bookshops I go to really carry it. The reason I asked for it for my birthday is that the author died a couple of weeks ago after committing suicide, and I knew his book was about some time he had spent in a psychiatric hospital during his twenties.

Supposedly the book is 85% based on Ned's real life experiences, with some changes to the characters' names and his own age too, I guess. He was in his twenties when he admitted himself voluntarily to a psychiatric ward after thinking of committing suicide, and was there for around a week. In the book, Craig (who is the narrator) goes through so etching very similar, however is is still a teenager rather than in his twenties.

The first half of the book covers Craig's life and how he is having difficulty coping with the rat race he sees himself in. He's constantly pushing himself to work harder and harder, desperate to get into a 'good' school, get 'good' grades, go to a 'good' college and get a 'good' job. Nothing he ever does is good enough, and he puts himself under an enormous amount of strain to fulfil on things he's not even really sure he wants. Hm, sounds familiar....

Eventually the strain catches up with him and he becomes depressed and suicidal and admits himself to hospital. In the hospital he meets a bunch of people and seems to get some perspective on his life, and also meets a girl who is going through something similar and they seem to connect. At the end, he leaves the hospital intact and hopeful for the future after re-discovering his love of art.

I liked this overall, there were some funny and quite touching parts. There were quite a few bits which I thought were superfluous to the flow of the story, there was a lot of dialogue that I skipped over because it wasn't really adding anything to the story and wasn't particularly good either. I also didn't like Craig's inner 'soldier' personality, I would have left that out because it didn't really seem necessary to make him more interesting or relatable. I liked it overall and I just wanted to read it after hearing that the author had died recently, which probably makes me some kind of a morbid bitch, but I just thought it was interesting, as well as pretty sad that the illness took over in the end.

I guess it was kind of surprising to reflect on his suicide after reading the book, as there were so many moments where Craig is contemplating it but ultimately decides to get help instead of carrying it out, but after decades of being unwell it probably grinds you down.

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