Like many smart, ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner seeks entry into Manhattans most prestigious school, Executive Pre-Professional High School. With single-minded determination, he works night and day to ace the entrance exam and gets in. Thats when everything starts to unravel. Once Craig starts his new school, he realizes hes just one of many brilliant kids, and he isnt even brilliant, hes average. As Craig starts getting so-so grades, he sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. He begins to have trouble eating, sleeping, and thinkingthats when he tells his parents hes depressed. He goes on medication and talks to therapists, but things keep getting worse, until one night Craig feels so low that he seriously considers suicide.But instead, Craig calls a hotline. The counselor tells him to get to the nearest hospital, and before he knows it, hes signed, sealed, and delivered into one of Brooklyns finest psychiatric units.Craigs new roommate is an Egyptian schoolteacher who refuses to get out of bed. His neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, and a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors.But somehow in this motley crew, Craig finds real friends and kindred spirits who give him strength. This is a remarkably moving and authentic picture of the physicality, the despair, and even the hilarity, of depression.
I'm still quite surprised that I hadn't heard of this novel until a few months ago, because it seemed pretty much like my ideal kind of book. And it most definitely was. I found it utterly amazing that he managed to write the whole book in roughly two weeks - it takes most authors months, even years, to finish a book! And how he managed to write so quickly whilst keeping it at an excellent quality is pretty impressive (and that's still putting it lightly!)
Anyway; the novel is basically about your typical teenage boy developing depression, and going into a downwards spiral until he wants to kill himself. But instead, he checked himself into a mental hospital, and a bit of it is about his time there and how it affects him. And I really did love it. I think there was something about the fact that there wasn't any overly-fancy language; it was straight to the point, and that really helped to keep the reader engaged, because you didn't have to grab a dictionary at every other word: it was explained.
I also loved how Vizzini had developed the characters. Sure, you don't understand all of them and their illnesses, but they're still loveable, and by the end I felt quite attached to a few of them and weirdly protective. There are loads of people out there exactly the same as the people in this novel, but usually it is hard to convey the reality of it all with a few words. But Vizzini did that, and I found myself relating to a lot of them and their situations, as well as sympathising with them.
But it wasn't all doom and gloom. One of the more surprising aspects of it was how funny it was - how at the end, I didn't feel depressed myself, but was actually smiling and felt good. It's a book about depression that is not that depressing, yet still gets across the serious issues. And that is a talent if I ever saw one. If you like books like Girl Interrupted, or The Bell Jar, this is definitely the novel for you, and I know that once you pick it up, you will be hooked!