Hello. Welcome to lookingforseattle. I’m Lu, a first time book blogger, so hopefully I’m doing this right. Um… here’s a review. : )
Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life–which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job–Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That’s when things start to get crazy.
At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn’t brilliant compared to the other kids; he’s just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig 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, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, 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. For a novel about depression, it’s definitely a funny story.
I know, the whole “don’t judge a book by its movie” thing, but there are some things I have to mention.
I just have to say that I’m glad I didn’t stick to my personal rule of always reading the book before I see the movie on this one. I really liked the movie but I think if I had read the book first I would have hated it.
For example, the whole stress vomiting thing was very strange. And as I was reading the book I was hoping that was just a Craig-quirk that was added for the movie. It didn’t end up that way, Craig did have a vomiting problem that was related to his depression, but it wasn’t like someone said something to him that stressed him out and he would just vomit, like the movie portrayed. It went much deeper than that, and was understandable and relatable the way the author described it.
Contrastingly, I loved Bobby in the movie, but he was completely out of character in the movie compared to the book.
There are other things I could mention about the book versus the movie, but these were the important ones.
I know that Ned Vizzini spent some time in a mental hospital, and based on the time frame in which he wrote the book between the time he was admitted, it’s clear that his experience heavily influenced his story. It’s possible that the hospital he spent time at was one of those ritzy ones that you spend the big bucks to stay at, but the way he described it in the book, was that it was the psychiatric ward at your everyday hospital. In that case, the world building and character relationships were very unrealistic. These hospitals do not have art “classes” or music volunteers – there is hardly a place for the patients to convene – and your first days are not as friendly and sociable. A stay at the psychiatric ward of a community hospital is very daunting and scary, and I don’t know that the author portrayed this as well as he could.
Craig was a very likeable kid, developed well as a character, a teenager who was obviously raised well by his parents. I think he was lost in his life, with nowhere to turn (that he knew of), and his best friend and supposed crush didn’t help. Aaron was basically an asshole and Nia a complete bitch. They deserved each other.
By the end, I think his new friends and girlfriend helped lead him to destiny, and, ultimately, to happiness. It was a good enough book that I think teens and adults suffering (or knowing someone) from depression can relate to and get something important out of.