It's Kind of a Funny Story: A Story Worth Telling Is a Life Well Lived

Vizzini, Ned. It's Kind of A Funny Story. New York: Hyperion, 2006.

"...First there’s the quarter life crisis, like the characters on Friends – people freaking out that they won’t get married. Twenty-year-olds. That’s probably true that people have quarter-life crises; I wouldn’t know.
But I know that now things work faster.
Before you had to wait until you were twenty to have enough choices of things to do with your life to start getting freaked out.
But now there’s so much stuff for you to buy, and so many ways you can spend your time, and so many specialties that you need to get started on early in life…so many people angling for success and so many colleges you’re supposed to get into, and so many women you’re supposed to have sex with.
So now, instead of a quarter-life crisis they’ve got a fifth-life crisis – that’s when you’re eighteen – and a sixth-life crisis – that’s when you’re fourteen.
Pretty soon there’ll be seventh- and eighth-life crises. Then eventually a baby will be born and the doctors will look at it and wonder right away if it’s unequipped to deal with the world; if they decide it doesn’t look happy, they’ll put it on antidepressants..."

Craig Gilner is a kid with too many choices. Ambitious, smart, and thoroughly unremarkable, his life is a massive tangle of Tentacles (sticky fingers that extrapolate far into the future and paralyze him in inactivity) and Anchors (the elusive things that could mean the difference between a life of success and a life of failure). A month into high school, Craig spirals into a depression that he cannot shake. When things take a turn for the worse, he checks himself into Six North, the psychiatric wing of a hospital in Brooklyn, and soon learns more about himself, his dreams, and the Big Shift than he ever could have imagined.

Based on Ned Vizzini’s personal experiences in a hospital’s psychiatric wing, It’s Kind of Funny Story is a wry and honest portrayal of the pressures that teenagers face on a regular basis. Exhaustingly aware of their countless options and need to succeed, teenagers today live in a much bigger and scarier world than those that teachers might remember. This story will strike a chord with young readers and offer teachers many inroads to the complex and high-pressure environment in which teenagers exist.

Topics such as suicide, depression, mental illness, drug use, and teenage sexuality can prove sticky in classrooms; however, It’s Kind of a Funny Story deals with these themes in a respectful, healthy manner. The story entertains dark ideas, but it ends with hope, and it offers that same hope to stressed and pressured teenagers – they are not alone. They can get through this. It is a hard journey at times, but in the end, theirs is a story worth telling.

Recommendations for Teachers

It's Kind of a Funny Story details the experience of an adolescent boy as he deals with his own depression, the stresses of life, and accepting help as he spends time in a mental hospital. Many students may be familiar with feelings of depression, and the stress that life as a high-schooler often presents, but will not be familiar with mental hospitals. When teaching this novel, it will be important to stress that there is always a place to find help for problems that feel overwhelming without singling anyone out. Below are several activities teachers should utilize when teaching this novel.

  • Brain Maps: Have your students partner up, preferably with someone they aren't particularly familiar with. Have them ask each other questions to learn more about one another during class time, and have them draw a brain map of their partner for homework. The next day have them present their maps, to the class or just their partner, and provide written, or verbal, justification for their design. After the activity, have the students discuss why they think it is Craig found drawing these maps so soothing. This is a good way to get students to learn more about each other, express themselves creatively, and become familiar with an aspect of the novel.
  • Epilogue: Ask your students to write a short epilogue to the novel. Give students the freedom to explore whatever aspect of the novel they weren't satisfied with in this piece. Examples include, interaction between Craig and Noelle, Craig's experiences at his new school, a time he hung out with his old friends, or any other ending they felt wasn't tied up. This activity is a way for students to work on their writing skills, and prove their knowledge of the plot lines of the rest of novel.
  • Journal Entries: Have your students write in a journal throughout their reading of the novel. Provide a question or idea for them to start with and have them free-write about that, as well as any questions or ideas they have. Students may have trouble relating to the novel if they become preoccupied by the idea of a mental institution, so these journal entries should allow the students to consider how their lives relate to the novel and help them open their minds to experiences they may not have. To allow the students to be more honest, keep the journals between you and the student, and allow time after every journal entry for students to discuss what they wrote with the class or small groups.
  • Letters: Have students write a letter to a character that interests them. They may ask questions, tell the character about themselves, or discuss anything they'd like to talk about with this character if they met in real life. After they've completed their letters, have your students write a response as the character they chose.
  • Character Analysis: Have your students list and analyze 5-8 characters from the novel that they find significant. Ask them to describe the personalities of these characters and why they think they are important. Ask students to think of someone in their own life who is similar to each of these characters, or people who have had a similar effect on them as these characters do to Craig.
  • Write a Scene: Ask students to choose a scene from the novel and have them rewrite it as a scene from a play or movie. Ask them why they chose this scene, and to consider who they would cast for each character in the scene and why.
  • Discussion Questions: If students seem reluctant to talk about the tough themes of the novel, use the discussion questions provided at the link at the bottom of this page. These questions or others like them may help to ease students into the tender topic of depression.

About Ned Vizzini


Edison Price "Ned" Vizzini was born April 4, 1981 in New York City. He began writing for the New York Press at the age of 15. At 17, one of his essays was published in The New York Times Magazine. This essay and others like it came together to form Vizinni's first novel Teen Angst? Naaah... (2000), a "quasi-autobiography" about his years spent at Stuyvesant High School. He went on to release two more novels entitled Be More Chill (2004), and It's Kind of a Funny Story (2006). His novels have been named to many lists and nominated for several awards. It's Kind of a Funny Story was named to the American Library Association's list of Best Books for Young Adults, the Abe Lincoln Award Master List, and it was picked by the Junior Library Guild as a pick for spring 2006. His novel Teen Angst? Naaah... was also chosen as a BookSense 76 Selection.

Ned Vizzini currently resides in Los Angeles California. His next novel entitled The Other Normals is due to be released by HarperCollins publishing in 2012.


The following videos are about Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story:
  • The first video is an audio clip of Ned Vizzini reading the first chapter of It's Kind of a Funny Story.
  • The second video is the official trailer for the film adaptation of It's Kind of a Funny Story.
  • The third video is Ned Vizzini talking about It's Kind of A Funny Story which was chosen as the incoming freshman reading book at Murray State.
  • The fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh videos are a theatrical interpretation of Vizzini's It's Kind of A Funny Story done by students from Oak Lawn Community High School.

Additional Resources:

  • Ned Vizzini's Website": This is the official website for Ned Vizzini, author of It's Kind of a Funny Story, Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah...
  • Interview with Ned Vizzini: This article is an interview with Ned Vizzini about where he gets his inspiration and also about the upcoming film adaptation of It's Kind of a Funny Story.
  • The New York Times: Tanya Lee Stone of The New York Times reviews Ned Vizzini's book, It's Kind of a Funny Story.
  • Suburban Mosaic: Discussion questions on Vizzini's It's Kind of A Funny Story.
  • Mayo Clinic: This is the page from Mayo Clinic on signs, symptoms, and treatments for teen depression.
  • AFSP: This is the website of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
  • Teens and Stress: This website gives information on what causes stress in teenagers and how to help them cope with their stress.
  • Mayo Clinic: This is the page from Mayo Clinic on the basics of stress and stress relief.
  • Teen Review: Teen review of Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story.
  • Live Journal: This is the author of It's Kind of a Funny Story, Ned Vizzini's LiveJournal page.
  • Art Therapy: Information on the use of art as a way of healing.
  • Mind Map Art: Lots of examples of brain maps in many styles.

-- YA! Review by Carly Crookston, Kristen Hayes, Samantha Phillips, and Anessa Johnson

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