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Summary: Everything about Craig Gilner (15) and his life seem solid. He has two loving parents and a sister; his 93 average gets him into a prestigious college-prep high school); he can hang with his friends Aaaron and Nia; and like all teenage boys, thinks about girls. These same "good" things also create pressure that partying, drugs, and prescriptions can't help. Craig's depression becomes debilitating. After contemplating suicide one morning, Craig calls a suicide-prevention hotline and checks into an adult psychiatric ward. Initially unsure what to expect of this situation. What he finds is unexpected: meeting such un-ordinary people who remind him that life is for living and that he is extraordinary. This coming of age story covers a tough (but real) teen mental health condition with sensitivity, humor, and hope. With its mature content, this is a high interest / low readability novel for older teens.
Type of Reading: independent reading, reluctant reader, struggling reader
Recommended Age: read together: 13 and Up; read yourself: 10 and Up
Young Reader Reaction: I found this book at just the right time. I was dealing with my own personal crisis and thought I could escape (selfishly) into Craig Gilner's life. As I zipped through the pages, I found parts of Craig in me. His experiences, opinions, ambitions; and I came to see him as a friend. I have never connected with a fictional character so deeply. I'm not a boy, but the author's genuineness and honest outlook jumped from the page. Maybe because I'm not a boy, I thought there was too much thinking about girls and sex. Some of it was for comedic relief, so it is a minor critique on my part. It’s Kind of a Funny Story is true to its title, but it is much more. The details of Craig's life and the unfolding of teenage depression is part pick-me-up for teens, young adults, and even adults experiencing struggle, but it is also an opportunity to bring youth mental health into the open.
Adult Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Pros: Realistic, humorous, and poignant, teens and adults will see in Craig someone they know and care for. The author covers subjects that no one likes to talk about in ways that let us talk about them.
Cons: Sex, drugs, and under-age drinking are part of the plot. That is why we recommend this for older readers.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. Craig will be a friend that kids can come back to when they need a pick-me-up or a reminder that they're pretty amazing, too.
If You Liked This Book, Try: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven THE FAULT IN OUR STARSSCARS
Educational Themes: Although teens are likely going to want to read this on their own, it is a book that can create discussions on real topics without getting "personal," because the focus can be on Craig.
Notes: A Reading Tub volunteer submitted this review.
Literary Categories: Fiction - young adult, coming of age, illness, health, family, school, realistic fiction