It’s Kind of a Funny (Heavy) Story
By: Madeline, Teen Blogger
A year or two ago I picked up a book at Barnes & Noble because I thought it had a cool cover: a boy’s head with maps traced in his silhouette. I looked at the back, and thought, “Wow, this seems like some heavy stuff to put in a book. Perfect.” The premise was that a boy, Craig, struggles with academia and depression, eventually resulting in a brief stay at a mental hospital. The storyline was actually inspired by the author Ned Vizzini’s own stint in an inpatient wing.
Craig is your average dorky outcast who tends to be too smart for his own good, which is a trope used over and over again in books. It’s usually followed by the protagonist gaining popularity and friends, and changing how he or she used to act. Instead, Vizzini wrote Craig pushing himself harder and harder, trying to please the unrealistic expectations he created in his own mind. He was rocket launched into bouts of depression and ended up in therapy. He went on antidepressants, but nothing seemed to work. Craig had a metaphorical way of describing how he wanted to feel, stemming from this big “shift” in his brain. He had tiny “shifts,” a small period of time where the clouds part and he can feel okay again, but they never lasted.
I’ve also dealt with depression and anxiety for quite a while, and this book displayed Craig’s mental illness in such a different light than I’d seen before. He had everything going for him: a good school, a loving family and close friends. Still, during the good, all he could feel was numb. There was no trauma or tragic backstory, it simply was. He went from being the gifted child, called a prodigy by his parents, to being completely and utterly average, at least in his eyes. He compared himself to everyone around him, and saw himself as lesser.
I was reading the feelings that Craig just vomited onto the page, and I started identifying with everything he said. I had started to pick up a lot of books about depressed teens, just to try and relate on some level, but they all had different characterizations. Now, by no means is that a bad thing, but it didn’t give me, specifically, anything to hold onto.
Having such representation of varying types of disorders in literature was a breakthrough moment for me, and it also encouraged me to go get help, like Craig did. He felt suicidal and decided to check into a mental hospital. It took getting to the lowest point in his life for Craig to realize that he wasn’t happy with how he was living, and that he could be okay.
I finished reading the book in two hours, and immediately broke into gross sobbing. Partially because the story was heart-wrenching, and partially because I had just gotten sucker punched by reality. I started looking at my life more, and tried to fix things that put me in a similar place to Craig. Having such good representation for mental illnesses that are so ridiculously common but so socially taboo is a blessing for kids everywhere that feel like they’re broken.
This story is relatable, hilarious and kind of a lifesaver. Check out these other books for a similar experience.anxiety, books, books dealing with tough subjects, depression, It's Kind of Funny by Ned Vizzini, mental illness, recommendations, teens