Book Finished: August 17th, 2014
Rating: 4/5 Stars
I have been interested in reading this book for awhile, but had been putting it off because of the subject manner – depression. Unemployment doesn’t necessarily put someone in the greatest state of mind. However, with Robin Williams’ recent death, I felt like now might be an important time to pick it up. I am very glad I did.
The story follows Craig, a teenager who has just gotten into a very competitive professional-prep high school and is also dealing with clinical depression. After one night when things get bad enough that Craig nearly commits suicide, he voluntarily checks himself into the emergency room and is placed in their short-term mental health floor. As the teen floor is being remodeled, he is placed on the adult floor, where a few other teenagers are also staying. The book encompasses Craig’s five day stay on the floor as he gets back on his feet and finds his “anchor.”
The book discusses a very complicated topic in a light-hearted manner, an aspect I really enjoyed. I have read other reviews that claim Vizzini’s treatment of depression is too easy going, and that it glosses over the dark nature of some of the other patients’ illnesses. However, I found the book to be a humanizing look at the other patients on the floor. Based on their descriptions, a few of them would likely not get a kind reception in the general public; in fact, Craig’s friends and family members do have uneasy reactions to Craig’s fellow patients. However, Craig is able to see the people there too, in a very matter-of-fact manner. This also helps the reader connect with them, and see more than an illness.
The one area I had difficulty connecting with the book is the fact that I have never been a 15-year-old male; Craig is at the height of puberty and learning about the mysteries of women. I also found some of the timeline difficult to keep up on, even though it only covered the length of five days.
While the book has a very hopeful ending (and one I think someone coping with mental illness would appreciate), it broke my heart to find out that Vizzini’s story did not end as nicely. Although he wrote this book after his own stay in a psych hospital, and obviously was feeling much more hopeful at the time, he took his own life at the age of 32 in 2013. I find this all the more reason that this book should be read. Vizzini’s life ended in tragedy, but his book provides hope that it doesn’t have to. Healing is possible with mental illness, though it is a long and very difficult road.