Miss Riki’s Review:
After acing his exams to get into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is on top of the world. All of his quirky study habits have finally paid off, and he is on his way to future success. Craig thinks he has everything he needs to be successful, but the pressure to be at his best overwhelms him until he stops eating and sleeping. The unbearable pressure takes him to the breaking point, leading to a frantic call to the suicide hotline that lands him in the hospital. His suicidal episode lands him on the adult psychiatric wing of the hospital where he meets a lively cast of characters who just might be the ones to bring Craig back from the brink of insanity.
This story is a morbidly funny look at the life of a depressed teenager who just wants to be successful. Craig is the perfect teen protagonist, with his mind constantly wandering to topics of sex when it’s not busy obsessing about his perceived troubles. I liked how honest Craig was in admitting his need for help, and the support of his family is heartwarming. It’s always nice to find a young adult novel that doesn’t gloss over the involvement of the parents, and although Craig sets out on his path to find help very much alone, his parents back him up in every way possible.
Vizzini writes a wonderful supporting cast of characters. From the transsexual sex addict who comes on to Craig in his initial moments in the psych wing, to the beautiful girl who has scarred her face with scissors, each supporting character had a reason to be there and moved the story forward in a unique way. Craig is such a likeable young character, and I loved seeing his interactions with each person on the psych ward. These people are flawed in very real ways, yet they manage to life each other up.
Vizzini has a unique perspective on depression and the inner workings of a psychiatric hospital, since he suffered from depression and spent a week in one himself. This book doesn’t shy away from the realities of living with depression, yet manages to infuse a humor into the narrative that reminds the reader that even in the bleakest moments, there is hope.