Craig had always been the smartest kid in his class until he was accepted into a Manhattan prep school. Here, his best is no longer good enough, and he is shocked to find himself among the “average” students. He still feels pressured to excel, but it no longer comes easily to him, and he sees nothing good about being ordinary. This mediocrity begins a downward spiral into a dark depression that even his friends and family cannot lift him out of. When Craig is with his best friend, Aaron, he just finds himself jealous of his beautiful girlfriend, and Aaron’s usage of drugs certainly doesn’t steer Craig in the right direction. Things continually get worse, so Craig begins going to therapy, but the psychologist’s prodding and questioning don’t satisfy him. He wants a cure, an answer that will change everything and make him okay again. Then one night, he nearly gives up. Unable to eat or sleep, he considers killing himself, but instead calls a suicide hotline. They direct him to the hospital where he checks himself in. He doesn’t realize that he is admitting himself into a mental ward.
Inside the psychiatric hospital, Craig meets an odd group of patients, from a girl who has permanently scarred her face with scissors, to an Egyptian man who refuses to leave his bed. The characters are eccentric, but Craig finds a true friendship with them despite their illnesses. In a place that would seem to push Craig over the edge, he begins to find his sanity again.
Teenagers will definitely enjoy this novel. Craig is a great narrator. His voice is funny and sarcastic, yet honest. His perspective may be strange, but it’s relatable. The patients add color to the story with their interesting backgrounds and behaviors. However, the story does deal with some intense issues from suicide to sex and drugs. The language and content may not be appropriate for everyone.
I fell in love with this book. It was captivating from page one. That is most likely due to the fact that the author, Ned Vizzini, suffered from depression and checked into a psychiatric center the month before he began writing this novel. The experiences, therefore, are very realistic because they are based on truth. Still, what really connects readers to the story is the understanding that everyone feels alone at some point. None of us are perfectly sane, but those feelings of craziness do not define who we are. It’s an inspiring story for teens. As an added bonus, the novel is being made into a motion picture that is supposed to be released in 2011.
Overall, it is one of those books with a plot and an underlying message that will make you think outside the box, so I would recommend it to anyone who loves an unusual, “kind of funny” story.
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