Ned Vizzini

It’s Kind Of A Funny Story

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It’s Kind Of A Funny Story Summary

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a contemporary coming-of-age novel written by American author, Ned Vizzini. Told from the first-person perspective, the story follows teenage protagonist Craig Gilner as he seeks psychiatric help after a period of mental illness. Though the novel deals directly with issues like depression, suicide, and recovery, Vizzini uses humor to add levity to the story of his character’s struggles. The book is based loosely on the author’s five-day stay in a psychiatric ward to treat his clinical depression as a young adult. Vizzini, who published several works with themes around mental health, committed suicide in 2013 at the age of 32.

Published in 2006, It’s Kind of a Funny Story was given a starred review by the American Library Association (ALA) and was recognized as one of its Best Books for Young Adults in 2007. It gained crossover interest after being adapted into a film that was released in 2010.

The story’s narrator, Craig Gilner, is a high school student who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Gilner faces mounting pressure after gaining acceptance to Executive Pre-Professional High School, a prestigious, fictional secondary school in Manhattan. Though he worked tirelessly to receive a perfect score on the school’s entrance exam two years prior, Gilner’s grades quickly begin to slip after he enrolls. The story takes place in Gilner’s sophomore year, though he spends the first parts of the novel reflecting on his arrival at the school.
Along with the overwhelming pressure to succeed academically at his new school, Gilner begins to feel alienated from his peers, while also obsessing over his unrequited crush on Nia, his best friend Aaron’s girlfriend. Gilner’s stress and depression begin to manifest as an eating disorder and sleep problems. He creates a language to describe what he’s feeling, which includes terminology like Cycling—the sensation that his mind is racing, Tentacles—thoughts that hold him back, and Anchors—the things that help him hold on. He is waiting for his life to undergo a Shift.

Gilner’s family is aware of his problems and helps him to find doctors, one of whom prescribes him Zoloft. He experiences a temporary reprieve, which he deems “The Fake Shift,” and after finishing his bottle, decides he doesn’t need to take medication anymore. His stress, anxiety, and obsession with death soon return, and Gilner begins to have suicidal thoughts.

One night, he plans to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. Before his plan is set in motion, he sees a book his mother is reading titled, How to Survive the Loss of a Love. Gilner reads through the book’s steps on how to avoid self-harm. Instead of jumping, he calls a suicide hotline and is persuaded to go to the emergency room, where he ultimately decides to admit himself into the psychiatric ward.

Gilner is checked into the adult psychiatric unit, Six North, because the adolescent wing is under renovation. There, he meets a diverse cast of adult characters with an array of mental health issues, as well another teenage in-patient, Noelle. Cautious at first, Gilner doesn’t truly feel he belongs, but he must stay for a minimum of five days. He soon becomes invested in his co-residents and tries to help solve their problems. In one instance, he procures Egyptian music for his roommate, Muqtada. He and Noelle, who has a facial disfigurment from cutting herself with scissors as a means of coping with past abuse, develop a friendship.

During his five-day stay, Gilner rediscovers his passion for drawing maps in art therapy, which helps guide his recovery. He creates a map of the head, which becomes an Anchor for how he understands his (as well as his fellow patients’) mind. He also continues to meet with his therapist, Dr. Minerva.

After breaking up with Aaron, Nia visits Gilner and the pair kiss in Gilner’s room until Muqtada interrupts them and Nia leaves, upset. Aaron and Gilner had previously argued over the phone and only reconnect when Aaron visits him on his last day at Six North. He apologizes for minimizing Gilner’s mental health problems and explains that he and Nia are trying to work things out. Also on his last day, Gilner’s relationship with Noelle becomes romantic.

A combination of friendship, therapy, and what he’s learned from the other patients, helps Gilner understand and confront his anxiety. He begins to eat normally again and decides to pursue art. His counselor suggests that he transfer from his elite school to an art-focused one, which excites Gilner, though he worries whether his parents will approve. He leaves the hospital with a sense of hope and renewal, along with a more positive attitude to life.

ALA’s review notes that readers must suspend disbelief in order to accept this recovery, saying that if readers can enjoy the voice – “one kids will come closer to hear” – and go with the storyline, the true gift this book offers is, “hope in a package.” Or as Kirkus Reviews puts it: “Vizzini’s witty, self-deprecating sense of humor keeps this winding yet entertaining novel about recovery and understanding afloat.”