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.
About the Author
Ned Vizzini began writing for "The""New York Press" at the age of fifteen. At nineteen, he had his first book published, "Teen Angst? Naaah." Ned is also the author of "Be More Chill," the first young adult novel ever chosen as a Today Show Book Club pick, as well as one of "Entertainment Weekly's" Top Ten Books for 2004. Ned lives in Brooklyn, New York.
The plot of this book -- teenage boy admitted to mental hospital for five days to treat anxiety/depression -- is super close to my heart and I wanted to love it, but the execution reminds me way too much of John Green. Those of you who love John Green: this is a recommendation! But personally, there are few types of characters that annoy me more than the dorky boy whose main ambition* is to touch the inside of a girl's vagina (and who eventually does, because he's a dork but not SUCH a dork that the hot girl won't let him fool around with her anyway). There are other things in life, boys!
*: OK, Craig has other ambitions. This may be a bit of an exaggeration. Still. Vagina touching gets a lot of mention.
Actually, it's not the teenage quest for sex that bugs me so much as the fact that in this book, like in Looking for Alaska, the first person boy protag is lusting after and objectifying a girl that specifically does not want to be objectified and is, in fact, made miserable when she is. Gross. At least (and I never thought I'd say this) in John Green's version, there's some acknowledgment and shame felt about this.
It's unfortunate that that aspect of the book sucks, because it all comes to a very good ending. Vizzini's been in a psych ward, so he knows what the Shift from unwellness to wellness feels like upon becoming stabilized enough to leave -- it's wanting to [verbs! wherein any verb = a metaphor for "live"] rather than wanting to nothing. Yes. This is exactly the difference between depression/anxiety and NOT depression/anxiety. I don't know if that's a difference you can understand so acutely if you haven't experienced it, to be happy even to want to pee or to go grocery shopping or to commute to work or whatever.
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