Between the Lines

Everyone can read, but really understanding a book and the story it represents is entirely different. It's important to adopt different perspectives. Here, I offer you mine.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

It’s Kind of A Funny Story
Ned Vizzini
444 Pages

Summary: Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life—which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job. But once Craig aces is way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself. Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety. Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness.”

Positive: 1. Humor. I think that readers would really enjoy the sense of humor Ned Vizzini presents in this book. A lot of the characters and situations are very amusing. It’s Kind of A Funny Story really lives up to its title. I remembered the last time that I burst out laughing at a solemn or inappropriate moment, and realized that the author was really targeting the fact that laughter is a common way of dealing with pressure. He made the reader feel okay about laughing, even while reading about such tragedy as people stricken with mental illness. The other characters in the book seemed at peace with their state of mind, and Ned Vizzini reminded me that maybe it’s better to laugh along with them instead of feeling sorry for them. 2. Very informative. This book explores the cause and affects of clinical depression amongst teenagers. I personally have never suffered from anything like depression, and I found it really interesting to read about what it was, what it did to people, and how it affected lives in a way that I could relate to, coming from a teen perspective. Although Craig isolated himself in a battle against his feelings, he’s only one of over thirty-two million others like him in the United States alone, a fact that really got me thinking. Ned Vizzini gives teens an example of how to help themselves and assures them that suicide isn’t the only solution. Just knowing that the author spent some time in a mental hospital himself really helped illustrate the story. 3. Emotional disconnection. Sure, this may seem like a bad thing. Craig being the narrator made it hard to get into the story because he seemed so emotionally distant from himself as well as others around him. I found it difficult to form attachments at first. However, Craig taking charge and checking into the hospital changes everything. Perhaps that was the point. As Craig started to put himself back together, he began to make connections with other characters, which allowed me (as the reader) to do the same. It was really interesting to build connections with other characters alongside Craig.

Negative: 1. Unrealistic timeline. According to the book, Craig managed to learn about his calling in life, build a relationship, and significantly help others diagnosed with illnesses similar to his own in a matter of five days. For some, it may not ring true that Craig adjusts to life so quickly. However, I liked the story enough to set aside my disbelief and just go with it.

Overall: I loved reading It’s Kind of A Funny Story. It had just the right mixture of seriousness and humor to keep the mood light and still get the point across. I found the main character easy to relate to, and enjoyed studying how he emotionally evolved throughout his story. Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of A Funny Story is a great read, and I would definitely recommend it.

Rating: Two Thumbs Up!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford

Suicide Notes
Michael Thomas Ford
295 Pages

Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year’s Day to find himself in the hospital. Make that the psychiatric ward. With the nutjobs. Clearly, this is all a huge mistake. Forget about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart. Forget about his problems with his best friend, Allie, and her boyfriend, Burke. Jeff’s perfectly fine, perfectly normal, not like the other kids in the hospital with him. Now they’ve got problems. But a funny thing happens as his forty-five-day sentence drags on—the crazies start to seem less crazy.
“Compelling, witty, and refreshingly real, ‘Suicide Notes’ is a darkly humorous novel from award-winning author Michael Thomas Ford that examines that fuzzy line between ‘normal’ and the rest a us.”

Postive: 1. Captivating. I honestly don’t even know what to say about this book quite yet. Partially because I read it really quickly. Not because it’s a short book, but because I couldn’t stop. I think I finished it in about three days total. I just had to know what happened next. The main character’s witty sarcasm and stubborn belief that he didn’t belong in a psychiatric ward really drew me in. 2. Unexpected storyline. When I first picked up the book, I was expecting some big, epic story of someone’s tragic life and hope to escape it all. What I got instead was the aftermath. This book kind of worked backwards, and it was pleasantly surprising. I was intrigued by the main character’s suicide attempt, which was presented as the rising action instead of the climax or ending event. Instead of learning the outcome of a series of events, we learn about the events that led to the outcome. In the end, when readers discover his true reason for trying to commit suicide, it’s scary to think that things like that happen every day. It really opened my eyes. 3. Theme. To me, it wasn’t really about the Jeff’s suicide at all. It was more about him growing up. I found it interesting that the main character was also the narrator, because he was kind of unreliable. He didn’t seem capable of accepting the harsh reality of what had happened yet. As the story goes on, he grows to understand and tries to make things right.

Negative: 1. The humor. Sure, some parts of the book were clever and witty. I did enjoy Jeff’s sarcastic and stubborn attitude. At times, though, it kind of felt like the author was trying a bit too hard to be funny in a way that would appeal to teenagers. Or perhaps that’s just not the kind of humor I myself enjoy. Either way, I found the author’s comedic attempts to not fit my style of humor. Of course, it might be different to other people. 2. Surprise sexual content. Spoiler alert! The story involves Jeff’s sexual activity with both a girl and a guy. I mean, I’m not against it. Some readers would turn away from extremely graphic scenes of homosexual intercourse—or any intercourse at all—but sometimes such a scene is necessary to piece a story together. I understand that it was definitely needed in this story, seeing as how a lot of it was Jeff identifying his sexual preferences. However, it kind of left me feeling uneasy. That was the last thing I expected of this book, and I was really shocked, especially since the sex scenes were so… detailed. I didn’t understand why it was even included in the story and what significance it had. Still, I read on, and in the end it turned out to be vital. When I finished the book and realized what it was really about, I understood the meaning of it.

Overall: I think the book was okay. It’s a good read to pass the time, and it presented some controversial ideas that are very interesting to think about. I kind of like how the book ended up being completely different from what I had expected it to be. I found it interesting how the story as well as the main character started off light and humorous but gradually became a bit more dark and serious.

Rating: One Thumb Up!