Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.
Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.
Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness. -Goodreads
*TRIGGER WARNING FOR DEPRESSION*
I don’t know what it is but lately, every book I’ve been reading has managed to strike a cord with me and has made me feel the need to tell you something about my life in the review. I don’t know. But it’s very cathartic to write so I’m going to keep doing that.
This book is about a kid with depression. Craig has a good family and a bright future but midway through, he got depressed. This book just made me feel understood.
I don’t think I have ever talked about this in great detail but when I was 14, I had what I can only describe as depression. I was struggling a lot in school. I couldn’t keep up with my classmates academically because of my learning disabilities and that led to me believing what I was being fed at that point by my parents, tutors and teachers. That I was stupid and useless. I was also drowning socially. I had no friends and even the people I tried to hang out with bullied me mercilessly (I wasn’t very strong when I was younger. I let people step over me because I wanted friends). My relationship with my mom was at it’s worst. She was screaming at me nearly everyday. Life wasn’t very good for me at that point.
I was so scared so I retreated into myself. I let my thoughts consume me and one day, I found myself in a very dark hole that I could not crawl out of. By this time, I was already crying myself to sleep, screaming into my pillows and starving myself because I was so afraid to face the school canteen by myself. I immersed myself in Jodi Picoult books and writing in my diary because it made the fact that I had no friends easier to bear. My mind, which had always been my safe place, had suddenly became a very scary prison. I would imagine killing myself. I even had a journal where I would plan it. I had everything I needed except the courage to do it. I would play everything out down to my funeral. At that time, I truly believed that no one would come to it. That my parents would be happier without me. That life would be better without me.
It’s hard to convey to you just how real these thoughts were and how scared I was and anyone who has experienced this will say the same. Life was really really bad for me and I was drowning. Unfortunately, like many people, I was too scared to tell anyone. I never got formally diagnosed because my family refused to see my struggle. I left silent clues that I needed help. I silently projected my need and at one point even tried to self-harm (nothing too serious) but my parents refused to see them. They just refused to do it. So I struggled quietly. I self-diagnosed myself with depression with the online sources I had because I had no other choice.
By the end of 2011, I was at my worst. I was being held back a grade because I had stopped taking my ADHD medication and I just couldn’t keep up anymore so I let everything slide. Life was bad.
2012 started rockily. I had a series of gastric attacks around New Year’s time that eventually landed me in hospital with stomach and intestinal ulcers in February (now that I look back, maybe it was the stress of 2011 that made me sick). 2012 was a whole year of hospitals and tests and medication and all that meant that I was out of school majority of the time. I was also given a pain counsellor. These factors gave me time to be by myself as well as to talk to a professional about my feelings (I convinced her that I was no longer suicidal so that she wouldn’t tell my parents. If you’re feeling suicidal and get the opportunity to talk to a professional, don’t do what I did. It may be scary but let them know. They need to know. Be braver then I was.)
By the end of 2012, I had a scary diagnosis of an incurable disease (I still have it). But I was in remission after a year of hell and life was looking up despite that. I did well in my exams despite my constant absences because it was just a repeat of the previous year. I just needed that headstart and I got it by repeating. I had friends finally and I was feeling good. I learnt to readjust and I slowly became okay again.
I still do get upset from time to time and I still can’t listen to Rascal Flatts without spiralling but I’m much better. I’m happy. Which is all I could ever want.
I told you this story because I wanted you to understand how much this book and the struggle that Craig went through meant to me. I felt like I could really relate to Craig. I mean obviously since the author himself had depression and spent some time in a mental ward, he was in the best position to write a novel like this.
I hate it when authors try to tackle issues that they are unfamiliar with and end up looking stupid and ignorant about the subject. It’s such a turn off so I’m so glad that Ned was able to write this.
I think this book is one of them that helps people come to terms with what they are going through. It makes you feel not crazy for what you are feeling and I’m grateful for Ned for helping me along.
The reason why this book lost it’s one star from me is because I felt like a lot of the conversations felt stilted and a bit forced. I also didn’t like that Noelle and Craig had insta-love going on. But at the heart of this book, the story was a good one and I recommend it to everyone.
By the way, the author, Ned, sadly took his life in December 2013.
My Rating: 4/5 stars