Book Reviews

Book Review: It’s Kind Of A Funny Story | Ned Vizzini

Genre: Young Adult
Year: 2006
Country: USA

Teenagers. Ugh.

The best thing about coming-of-age YA books is the ability to see from a different perspective. This time, from a 15yo’s. I’ve always shied away from sensitive subjects such as mental health. In my head, they’re rather inconsequential as long as you’re not having sucidial thoughts, you’ll be fine. I think it has a lot to do growing up in an African setting where mental illness is attributed to a Western thing. Because, to be frank, everyone has problems. Some just do a better job of hiding them.

HELLO!, it’s real! People get (clinically) depressed and end up living on antidepressants. It’s not something you can just snap out of like a bad mood.

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The author, who was previously hospitalized briefly in a psychactric hospital, does a fine job of addressing the issue of sucidial depression from a teenage perspective in a whimsical manner. Basically, the book was inspired by his experiences. Really, that is the only way to aptly depict it else it might have come across as been forced or made up.

How a number of symptoms including – school and peer pressure, bullima, insomnia, stress and general restlessness and lethargy – led to the Craig Gilder’s near suicide and voluntary 5-day admission into a psychiatric hospital. This gave me chills. Eventually, the change of environment is what he needed to pull through and focus on his anchors rather than tentacles. God forbid, he was based in Africa. He would have been long gone.

The point is, everyone is messed up in more ways than none. Some us have found a way to deal with it without affecting our lives, others, not so much. We can’t deny the fact that mental illness – which includes depression, dementia, schizophrenia – is a thing and if not treated, it can get way out of hand and lead to suicide and other life-threatening illnesses.

So, what are we doing about it? Are psychologists, therapists and psychopharmacologists readily available? Are there hospitals with psychiatric wings and resources available to cater to and accommodate them for as long as possible? Are the members of staff willing to put up with psychotic patients? Are the necessary meditation – Zoloft, Paxil – available? These are pertinent questions.

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I loved how easy it was to read. The language and YA lingo ticked all the right boxes which made it even more enjoyable. I loved how it was divided into brief chapters. This appealed to people with short attention spans – basically all millennials. Also, the idea of brain maps was fascinating. It’s amazing how maps can be used to depict the activities of the brain. I thought it was brilliant.

At some point, I was frightened by how much teenagers are exposed to. From drugs to sex and whatnot. It’s terrifying coming from someone who had a pretty sane and basic adolescence.

What then do we do?  We need to raise awareness especially in this part of the world. Mental illness is a thing. Instead of judging them, get them treated. Let them find help. The author has done his part by being writing about it. The rest is up to us. If we see any seemingly conspicuous signs, don’t diminish them.

The book has been adapted into a 2010 movie. Looks like fun! Meanwhile, what’s with the title? It was funny. I had a few laugh-out-loud moments but it wasn’t hilarious. The book was too sensitive to be taken as a joke.

Apparently, the author who had been suffering from severe clinical depression committed suicide in 2013. Plot twist!

Rating:****

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