As a mother, I often wonder how my child is going to "stack up" in school, in society, etc. I give her all of the tools I can and I try to make sure she has a well-balanced life - but at some point I have to say, "I've done all I can". This book focuses on 15-year-old Craig Gilner. He is a young man who is put under so much pressure to succeed (much of it self-induced) he feels the only way to escape is suicide. The title is "It's Kind of a Funny Story" and at times it is, laugh out loud funny, but then there are the quieter times that are filled with despair that make your heart just break for Craig. Ned Vizzini does a brilliant job of bringing all of the emotions of this story together in a nice cohesive blend.
Craig, realizing his issues speaks with his family and they get him the help he needs. He sees a therapist, Dr. Minerva, and is placed on medication. These steps seem to work until Craig starts feeling so good he decides to stop taking the meds. He spirals down and eventually he is on the phone with a suicide prevention hotline (a sadly funny incident). They suggest he checks himself into the hospital and that is what he does. In my opinion, this is where the story packs its punch. Craig stays in the facility for five days (on the adult floor since the juvenile floor is undergoing renovations) and he interacts with folks that have more severe issues than he does. He meets people that have been in and out of the system for years, people that have no support system. His eyes are opened and it is the learning experience of his young life.
This book tackles topics that plague many of today's teens. They are working so hard to achieve a goal (get into the right school, meet the right partner, be in the right organizations, etc.) that they often forget how to be kids. Being in the hospital not only saved Craig's life, it taught him how to live life.
The author brings some nice insight to the story as well. Though this is not a memoir - he spent sometime in mental facility and was placed on the adult ward when he was a teen. He began writing this novel after being discharged. Clearly, this was a cathartic experience for him and we are lucky to be able to live through this tense time with Craig. A great read, I would highly recommend it to parents and students alike.