Thursday, August 17, 2006

It's Kind of a Funny Story

by Ned Vizzini

As a hypochondriac, I have very little sympathy for the symptoms of other people. I find it particularly difficult to empathize with people who suffer from depression, because their complaints sound like things we all go through, to some degree, and I tend to feel as if they're over-reacting and/or being self-indulgent. I know, of course, that's not true, and I want to understand (as much as possible), which perhaps explains the appeal of books about depression.

This book, written immediately after the twenty-something author's own brief stay in the psych ward, chronicles a teen's rapid and (to an outsider) sudden descent from mere depression to suicidal ideation (the technical term for wanting to kill yourself). At first, the descriptions of the kid's thought patterns and mental states (tentacles, cycles, etc.) made me feel as if I were getting somewhere in my quest for greater understanding; ultimately, however, they amounted to nothing more than how's when I was really looking for why's. Why does a negative experience or emotion make one person have a crappy day and make another person seriously consider jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge? For that matter, why can most of us shrug off a crappy day (or even a few) while others fall into a paralyzing depression?

Even though I didn't find what I was seeking (should I be depressed about that?)(sorry, that isn't funny, is it?), I'd say the book was pretty good overall. It's well-written, the pacing is good, the conclusion is hopeful without being sappy or too optimistic. If you don't mind books that leave you feeling a bit drained and/or melancholy, if you want an intense emotional experience, if you liked The Burn Journals, give this book a try.

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