It's Kind of a Funny Story is the tale of teenager Craig Gilner who wants nothing more to succeed and make money in life; if he doesn't kill himself first. Craig lives in Manhattan and is under a lot of pressure to perform well in both social settings and academic. When the story begins Craig his hanging out with his friends Ronny, Aaron, and Nia. Nia is Aaron's girlfriend. Aaron is Craig's best friend. That doesn't stop Craig from developing a crush on Nia. Craig also suffers from high anxiety. While his friends are smoking weed and goofing around, Craig is in the bathroom trying to control his sweating.
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Craig is studying for an acceptance test for an upscale executive pre-professional high school. All he does is study for the test, at the amusement of his friends. His parents are supportive of Craig, but there is a distance between them that is existent in most teenage-parent relationships. His younger sister (age 9) doesn't appear to have any problems dealing with the daily stresses of life, at least, not to Craig. The anxiety of having to live and measure up has hit 15-year-old Craig hard. He calls these responsibilities his “tentacles” when talking to his psychologist, Dr. Minerva.
One of the ways Craig can relax (besides his prescribed medication from his psychopharmacologist Dr. Barney) is by drawing maps of imaginary places. He started doing that at a young age and wanted to be a mapmaker when he grew up. But it's difficult to remember these simple pleasures when Craig can't even eat or sleep due to anxiety. He hears a voice, very drill sergeant-esque telling him to eat, sleep, be a functional human being.
When Craig was in eighth grade Aaron threw a party, a real party with booze and girls. That was the first time Craig got high. While other kids were interacting and mingling, Craig spaced out and got lost in his own world. It was hard for him seeing Aaron and Nia together so he drank and listened to records. After the party Craig and Aaron took a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. This is one of several times the bridge is mentioned in the book. In Craig's mind, one side of the bridge is success, the other side, failed attempts.
All of Craig's studying pays off with a perfect 800 on the school's test (although it was later found out that due to a scoring error, everyone received a perfect score that semester). He knew how to prepare for the test, but not for the school. Once he started actually attending the school he only became more and more behind on his school work as his anxiety increased. Meanwhile Aaron and Nia are both doing well at the school. Aaron's parents are both successful but leave him to his own devices, which allows plenty of opportunity to hang out with Craig most Friday nights.
Dr. Barney was the first doctor his parents sent him to after Craig told them he was depressed. Craig says his mind gets caught “cycling” through all the to-dos on his list. Dr. Barney started him off on Zoloft and recommended he see a therapist. Over the next year it is a series of ups and downs as Craig develops insomnia and panic attacks. One highlight in Craig's life happens when he tells Nia of his depression. He learns she also is on medicine and sees a “shrink.” Craig needs more from life, however, and sinks into a deep depression. He decides he wants to kill himself.
He stops taking his medication and makes a plan to bike to the Brooklyn Bridge and jump off. He ends up calling a suicide hotline and then checking himself into the emergency room. While at the emergency room the doctors place him on a 5150 which means he is not allowed to leave the hospital. A doctor comes and asks Craig if he wants to stay at the hospital. By this time Craig's parents have arrived after waking up to find their son missing. Craig says he does and stays a week at the mental health facility.
There are no beds available in the juvenile, underage wing of the hospital so Craig is mixed in with the adults. Over this week his feelings for Nia are revealed, he makes friends (Jimmy, Bobby) at the hospital, and develops a love interest with another juvenile staying at the hospital, Noelle. During this week Craig is uplifted and feels better about life. He even makes plans to transfer to an art school so he can draw more maps. He drew maps for all the patients on his last day. His dad brings over Blade II for them all to watch together, but he and Noelle sneak off to make out. Everything seems to be going well for Craig. At the end of the book he just says how he wants to “live, live, live.” While that's where the book leaves it, there is still the voice Craig hears and the pressure he feels. The reader can only hope the changes he makes in his life truly make him live.
Best part of story, including ending:
It's Kind of a Funny Story actually is a funny story about a teenager who just wants to get it right. That is something that everyone can relate to on some level.
Best scene in story:
When Craig decides to kill himself he stays up most of the night pacing. He sleeps for part of the night in his mother's bed, but he has a firm conviction to kill himself. After the anxiety builds up he takes down one of the self help books off the shelf. That is where he finds the suicide prevention hotline number. This scene is where it could have all gone wrong with Craig. He doesn't realize that while he thinks he has chosen to die, he has actually made steps to live.
Opinion about the main character:
Craig Gilner is a very likable character. You want him to succeed and be able to overcome his problems. These aren't problems like training more to make the football team, but just to be able to handle a conversation in a classroom. Most human beings would be able to relate to not knowing the right steps to take.