Ned Vizzini’s novel “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” revolves around a Brooklyn teenager, Craig, who checks himself into a psychiatric hospital after struggling with severe depression and suicidal intentions.
Much like Stephen Chbosky’s renowned coming-of-age novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “It’s Kind of a
Funny Story” tackles the angst of adolescence and the whirlwind of emotions that teenagers grapple with as they grow up.
The main contributors to Craig’s depression are academic pressures, a yearning for love and a constant comparison with others, all of which are obstacles that a majority of teenagers deal with, especially in high school.
Vizzini explores all three factors in his novel. The consequences of academic pressure for instance are portrayed through Craig’s journey from a confident young boy to a self-doubting teenager shortly after being accepted into one of New York’s most prestigious high schools and receiving disappointing grades.
Indeed, it is necessary for readers to recognize the fact that academic pressure is an increasingly common problem in the contemporary world as academic environments become more demanding.
As fierce competition is undoubtedly becoming the source of severe stress for teenagers already dealing with their own set of insecurities, Vizzini supplies readers with an example of its consequences through Craig.
Due to homework and the suffocating pressure to succeed, Craig’s mental health begins to wither, and he begins to smoke pot and neglect food on a regular basis, eventually becoming lethargic and losing all faith in himself and his abilities. This, if anything, is a warning to teenagers and also a statement that sometimes high marks in school don’t lead to happy, successful lives.
Vizzini also associates severe academic pressure with the loss of inspiration and involvement in everyday life. Craig abandons his artistic abilities for his studies as he drills himself for his exams and stops interacting with others and going outside. He also forgets how to live simply and appears to be unable to act unless following strict rules.
Also a source of depression and a central aspect to the novel is Craig’s constant comparison of himself to his successful and smooth-talking best friend Aaron, as well as his steady infatuation with Nia, Aaron’s girlfriend.
When Craig builds relationships with the other patients in the hospital, he realizes that he needs to begin avoiding putting himself down and engaging with people who take him lightly, much as Aaron does, and to start appreciating his own abilities and gaining worthwhile friends.
Vizzini highlights both the passionate and compassionate aspects of teenage love through Craig’s relationship with Nia and the one with Noelle, who is a beautiful but scarred teenage girl in the psychiatric hospital with him.
Craig has constant lustful fantasies about Nia and considers this love, but eventually admits to Nia that “I like hooking up with you, but I don’t like you as a person.” Contrastingly, although Craig’s relationship with Noelle does have a physical side, both teenagers have deep respect and admiration for each other and confess their wishes to maintain contact even after their discharge from the hospital.
Through Craig, Vizzini encourages teenagers battling depression, or any sources of negative emotions in their lives, to accept the fact that they have a problem and to stop contemplating suicide, go to a phone, call a suicide hotline and get the help they need.
Vizzini has Craig firmly declare to his friend Aaron that depression “is nothing to be ashamed of” and makes Craig proudly display his hospital bands at the end of the novel as a symbol of overcoming his troubles.
Ned Vizzini’s novel instills hope in its readers, leaving them with a sense of pride in Craig for representing an entire population of teenagers dealing with depression and emerging triumphant.