TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
Warning! This book looks a lot thicker and harder to read than it actually is. So although "It's Kind of a Funny Story" tops out at 444 pages, it's honestly not as long as you might think. Please don't let the book's size discourage you from reading what is an insightful, wry, touching look at the effects of mental illness on one ninth grade boy.
Ok, with that disclaimer out of the way, let's talk about the book. We start right out seeing that Craig is in the throes of clinical depression. He can't eat, sleep, study, or even hang out with his friends anymore. His thoughts tend to "cycle" (his word), keeping his mind on an anxious track that blocks out the rest of the world. One night, in the midst of this violent inner turmoil, Craig decides to kill himself by leaping off the Brooklyn Bridge. He stops himself by calling a suicide hotline and, in the middle of the night, checking into a local hospital.
This is where the book truly takes off, after Craig is committed to the psychiatric ward of the hospital for a five-day stay. What starts out as a scary, unsettling experience for Craig becomes an awesome journey during which he makes new friends, gets a girlfriend, rediscovers his love of art and mapmaking, and begins to take his first brave steps away from depression. I think you'll come to adore Craig's fellow patients, all of whom have their own quirks and eccentricities, and the very believable relationships he forms with them. Even better, you'll admire the way Craig starts to forgive himself for his perceived failings and frees himself from the stressors that have been attacking his life.
Author Ned Vizzini, who wrote the very popular "Be More Chill," spent time in psychiatric care immediately before writing this novel. He does a terrific job of removing some of the stigma from mental illness and showing that Craig's depression is an illness for which he should not be blamed or embarrassed. The book ends on such a hopeful, uplifting note that it may help give some comfort to teens who are fighting their own battles against anxiety and depression. I highly recommend this sweet, funny, and ultimately inspirational story to high school age readers.