“It’s Kind of A Funny Story” Review | Teen Ink

“It’s Kind of A Funny Story” Review

July 18, 2018
By MadProphet SILVER, Tallahassee, Florida
MadProphet SILVER, Tallahassee, Florida
8 articles 0 photos 0 comments

This is perhaps one of the most impactful pieces of literature in the young adult genre. Ned Vizzini does such a wonderful job of realistically depicting the mind of a modern adolescent coping with depression and it's through this perspective that he creates a powerful commentary on the state of mental illness in modern America. I found Vizzini's writing style to be fresh and captivating, even when he is describing background details, he never fails to make every word matter.

One thing that really stood out to me about this novel was the way that Vizzini brought his characters to life. The protagonist of the story, Craig, could have easily been the generic awkward teenage male archetype, but he is a little bit more complex due to the fact that he wants to be considered a "normal" person. Craig’s plot line is basically that he is an adolescent living in New York City who attends the highly selective Executive Pre-Professional High School. He eventually begins to suffer from mental health issues associated with his academic routine and the tribulations that come with young adult life. This leads to Craig having a suicidal episode that gets him admitted to a mental hospital. During the brief time that Craig spends at an adult psych ward, he is introduced to a variety of people struggling with different issues. The experiences that Craig has with the other patients greatly impacts his life and his sense of identity.

There are two continuous conflicts that Vizzini does a fantastic job of depicting. The first is Craig’s internal conflict. Craig is in a constant battle with his own psyche to try and achieve the traditional successful life. This struggle is embodied through Craig’s internalized dialogue with an imaginary army sergeant. The sergeant often demands that Craig independently solve his dilemmas and I believe that this is intended to serve as a metaphor for Craig’s subconsciousness. The second conflict that Vizzini illustrates is the turmoil between Craig and his two closest peers. Craig does not experience any physical confrontation with any of the characters throughout the story, however he does have emotional conflict with two side characters, Aaron and Nia. Aaron is supposedly Craig’s best friend throughout the story, yet it is clear that Aaron’s narcissism combined with Craig’s depression creates tension in their relationship. The situation becomes even more complicated when Nia is introduced to the story. Nia is Aaron’s girlfriend, but Craig secretly has romantic feelings for her. Throughout the novel, Craig grapples with the turbulent relationship that he has with these two characters. In a sense, I believe that these two characters represent the traditional high school life that Craig has decided to abandon, and the conflict that ensues between them and Craig is a manifestation of Craig’s struggle to liberate himself from the confines of societal expectations.

Symbolism is incredibly important in this novel. An example of this is through the brain maps. Vizzini presents two variations of the brain maps throughout the story. The first are the brain maps that Craig drew as a child and while he was a patient in the mental ward. This symbolizes Craig achieving a better understanding of his own psychology along with the personalities of the patients around him. The second is the brain map that is depicted piece by piece over the course of the book. This symbolizes how Vizzini is slowly revealing different elements of Craig’s character throughout the novel, and by the time the reader finishes, they are left with a complete picture of Craig’s identity. Overall, the brain map symbolizes the complexity of human psychology. Our minds spaces to be navigated through as we venture throughout our lives. Another example of symbolism in this story is the imaginary army sergeant that Craig speaks to in his head. The internalized dialogue that Craig shares with this sergeant is intended to symbolize the way in which traditional society often responds to mental illness. Whenever the sergeant speaks to Craig, it is in a demanding and unsympathetic nature. Vizzini writes the character this way in order to criticize the apathetic nature of traditional expectations in regards to mental illness and mental health.

Overall, It’s Kind of A Funny Story was written by Ned Vizzini in order to create a realistic representation of the mental health issue in modern America. This does not, however, mean that Ned Vizzini wrote this novel as an indictment of modern America. Instead, Vizzini chooses to put a face to the issue of mental illness through the perspective of the protagonist, Craig. Through Craig’s eyes, the reader grasps a better understanding of how mental illness spawns and why some people remain mentally ill.

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