I think the most important thing about reading as a hobby is to read books you enjoy. Don’t pick up a book because it’s popular and struggle through it because everyone’s talking about it. If you don’t like a book you’re allowed to put it down; if you’re really enjoying it, carry on! As silly as it sounds, it’s taken me so long to realise that. This has been in my (gradually increasing) stack of books to read for about five years now, and I’ve only just come around to picking it up properly. I’m glad I waited. I’ll explain why later.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story follows Craig Gilner, a fifteen-year-old student whose goal of being accepted into a prestigious high school and maintaining his reputation as a hardworking overachiever has disastrous consequences for his mental health. (I’m trying to not give too much away here. It’s so hard!)
The bulk of the book takes place over the course of five days, and in that time we’re introduced to so many characters with such distinctive personalities, each with their own back story to boot. It’s fascinating. A little character development goes a long way – I found myself caring for some of the minor characters almost as much as I did for Craig, especially with Vizzini’s brilliant use of one liners and witty remarks. The humour he employs through his characters is so dry and makes the book that much more honest and refreshing to read; Vizzini isn’t trying to sugar-coat anything. His tone is spot on for the story he’s telling.
As well as a broad range of personalities, through Craig we’re exposed to an array of emotions that vary from ecstatic highs to haunting lows. One of the most rewarding aspects of reading this book, and partly the reason I picked it up in the first place, was to gain an insight into how the mind works of someone with depression. Someone very close to me suffers, and I’ve never really understood or been able to relate. Vizzini himself spent five days in a psychiatric hospital, and began writing It’s Kind of a Funny Story a week after he left, which I found particularly interesting. The book’s cleared up a lot of prejudices I (very wrongly) once held. It’s shown me that people who suffer from serious mental illnesses can behave perfectly normally; people who suffer at 15 are no different than those who suffer at 60. It’s shown me that people who need psychiatric help aren’t always erratic and unpredictable, and are definitely not a threat. Again, these are things I just didn’t know. Reading this book has been a real eye-opener for me.
I was going to tell you why I was happy that I waited to read this book, and didn’t dive straight in when I bought the book at 15 years old. I did try, but at that stage in my life I was more concerned with chick-lit and stories about love and sex. (I’m definitely not knocking chick-lit, I still love it and always will!) I just know, though, that if I’d given It’s Kind of a Funny Story a proper go back then I would spend my time trying to decide if Craig was hot or not, and looking out for potential love interests as new characters came into the picture. The book definitely falls into the YA category, and is written in a very chatty style that I’d say is designed for 14-17 year olds, if we’re putting books into boxes like that. I don’t think this book could’ve been written in any other way, though. What you get is this earnest, purposeful story that needed to be told. I would recommend this to anyone that’s mature enough to handle the content because it really is great.
I find the novel more poignant now, knowing that Vizzini tragically passed away in December 2013 after committing suicide. I’m so thankful that he told this story while he was here and can only wish that his own could’ve ended in the same way as Craig’s.
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