Book Review: It’s Kind Of A Funny Story – Ned Vizzini

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“Sometimes I just think depression’s one way of coping with the world. Like, some people get drunk, some people do drugs, some people get depressed. Because there’s so much stuff out there that you have to do something to deal with it.”

Craig has a good life, he goes to a top school in New York, has a loving family and a good group of friends. Craig is also depressed. After deciding he doesn’t want or need to take his medication any more, a few nights later he decides that he’s going to kill himself. But something stops him that night and he finds himself checking into a psychiatric ward and into a completely new world. To get better a lot has to change and Craig has to get to know himself.

There are books in life that somehow just explain your life. They make you feel like you’re not alone and you’re not as crazy as you thought you were. For me, It’s Kind of a funny story was like that. I’ve only ever read one other book that understood how I felt was The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. You see, Vizzini’s main character Craig is a perfectionist, he wants success and if one thing goes wrong he spirals he starts to ‘cycle’ which, if you’ve never experienced it is a bad thing. Thoughts keep coming and coming until you can’t think straight,sometimes you feel like you can’t breathe. His high ambition and determination takes over his life to the point that the majority of his cycles are about the work he’s going (or lack of it).

A few people have criticised some of the actions of the teenagers on the ward and I’ll admit that, at first, I was sceptical and thought could things like this really happen? Then I remembered I was reading about teenagers, and I think that’s something you have to keep in mind while reading this novel. Craig isn’t an adult and while some of the things he struggles with might be hard to understand as an adult I can fully remember these feelings and emotions as a teenager myself.

I can fully praise this novel for its portrayal of what it’s like to have a mental illness as a teenager and also for reiterating that you should never just stop taking your medication. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to read something and just feel every bit of what the character is going through; the anxiety, the need to achieve, thinking that you can handle everything when in fact you’re only slightly getting better and last but not least finding a creative way to release all the frustrations. The reason that Vizzini can write this so well is because he himself has lived it. Like Plath’s novel, Vizzini’s is semi autobiographical; he was in a mental health unit as a teenager. On a personal level, I don’t think that experience ever truly leaves you. I’m inspired by him and incredibly saddened to learn that he took his own life a few years ago.

I want to give this novel five stars *****. This really is something else, not only is there a positive portrayal of young people with mental health conditions but also of teenagers in general. Craig does nothing wrong except try, and I think that’s more common than a lot of people realise. People with mental health problems can have a perfectionist side, which without help can take over, I certainly know mine does. I want everyone to read this because it is amazing, educational and I found that it really gave me some hope and someone to connect with. Go and pick a copy up now!

Review by Chloe Metzger

Education is a gift like no other

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I don’t always know what to write about. This evening was like that, a blank screen in front of me and searching for some kind of inspiration. People have asked me today how I can blog every day, how I stay motivated. I don’t really know, I suppose it’s just something I’m really proud of and it’s fun for me. I’d love to make a career out of this, but it’s not the sole reason I write it.

I spent today at work with a bunch of great students. They’re only two to three years younger than me but we’re kind of mentoring them as they apply for university and help answer any of their questions. I sat in on two taster sessions today, one for Media and another for Criminology, two subjects I’d never encountered before. I watched the lecturers and heard their passion for the subject and it inspired me. I’ve been getting more and more passionate about becoming a lecturer lately. People give me a list of reason not to do it; it’s too expensive, you haven’t lived yet, can you earn enough from it, what do you have to teach. There’s this fierce passion in me and from simply watching the impact the lecturers had on young people it reminded me why I want to study until I’m 25.

There is nothing in my decision about being scared about going into the ‘real world’. I want the challenge, the stimulation, the creativity that being an academic in Literature brings. I can still do other things, I can write books, still do social media. It’s not something I see as preventing me from doing anything, instead I see it as opening more doors than ever. It’s true what they say, education is the best gift of all, no one can take it away from you.

I wanted to write this to remind myself when I’m having a tough time with my dissertation this year or when I feel like giving up later on. I want to remember this excitement and happiness at the thought of studying and exploring literature. I’m a geek and I’m proud.

Image from http://www.girlsgonesporty.com/articles/fitness/using-we-heart-it-to-maximize-fitness-inspiration/

Chloe’s Book Haul – June 20th

If there’s one thing I cannot resist it’s offers on books, wherever I can get my hands on them bookshops, car boot sales, charity shops, online, Kindle books, you name it. While I like libraries and they were certainly important when I was younger, I love having my own books. I had two books to exchange and a £10 voucher for Waterstones, so of course I had a little buying spree today. I got six books in today’s haul, mostly on buy one get one half price and another book from Amazon that I ordered a few days ago.
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All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

This novel was recommended to me by a bookseller a while ago, he had just finished reading it and said it was incredible. The novel is set in World War Two (one of my favourite settings) and it’s protagonists are a young Hitler Youth and a Blind Girl on the run with her father, I’m intrigued. I’m interested to see how Doerr presents a blind persons perspective, it’s exciting and is probably part of what sold the book to me!
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The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell 

The Bone Clocks has a stunning cover, which it what initially caught my eye. There wasn’t much information about the novel on the back but after a quick search it sounded worth picking up. If this isn’t interesting enough, I don’t know what is ‘Holly is no typical teenage runaway: a sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena.’ I’m taking a total risk with this novel, I’ve never heard anything about it but I’m really hoping it’s something great.

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The Following Girls – Louise Levene 

I picked this up because it sounded fun but seemed to have a heart. Set in the 1970s with a 16 year old protagonist who seems like a normal teenager and possibly a little lost. According to the front cover the Sunday Telegraph called it ‘acidic social satire’, sounds good to me!

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler 

I have hear a lot about this novel. It’s been everywhere, recommended by everyone and involves one of my favourite things in literature, complex relationships. I hate the ‘normal family’ because frankly it doesn’t exist so knowing that this novel is about a whole family (although only narrated by one of them) drew me in as well as it’s raving reviews. I hope it lives up to the hype.

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Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan

Another ‘wildcard’ I had to pick another on buy one get one half price, it was at the till point and all I was told was that it was good and ‘very French’. So let’s see…

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Funny Girl – Nick Hornby 

Another recommended read. Again I’ve heard a lot of good things and haven’t read much of Hornby and I might be going to a reading of his this week so I thought I might as well pick it up. I was also surprised to learn he studied at Kingston University, so hopefully I’ll enjoy it.

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How To Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran

Now I read this when I was a young teenager and hated it, but now I think I didn’t really understand it, not properly at least. Now I’m going to be studying it or partly at least and I’ve watched some of her youtube videos, so let’s try again.

My Sunday in Pictures: Young Adult Literature Festival and pub time with the girls

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Although I’m still sniffly I made it out today to the YA Literature Festival with Joe! I bought lots of books, got involved in a lively debate, met a lovely author and some fantastic publishers (which now means the help of publishing work experience hopefully). After that dumping my bags and off to the pub to meet the girls whilst Aline is in the UK!

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The panel of authors debating gender in popular culture, which I got involved in.

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My stash of books that I bought today for £35…Oops! 

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Eleanor and I at the pub.

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Aline, Dani and Eleanor in where else…Spoons! 

Remember,remember the 5th of November…the day that I got off my arse

 

Alright so unless you talk to my parents most people will agree that I try and get on and do things (if you’re reading this the dishwasher doesn’t count Mum!), after yesterday’s down day I woke up still in a foul mood..uh oh! I slept in late intentionally so I could try and see if I simply needed sleep to relieve my mood, I was wrong. I don’t know why I get like it really I just get in a foul mood and I can’t shake it no matter how hard I try. In my driving lesson things picked up, I can definately still successfully drive and not crash into anything (always a bonus). Then as the lesson came to an end my mood started to decrease after a few comments. I’m naturally nervous but this wasn’t too much of a problem today. Despite my progress and skills my instructor has made it clear to pass by Janurary I have to do 2 hours a week with him or go all the way back to Basingstoke and drive with my parents, both were pretty silly ideas. It takes me between an hour and two hours to get back to Basingstoke and a return journey is £30.00 roughly which isn’t happening, as well as the expense I moved away to be independent not rely on Mum and Dad. His other suggestion seemed odd, on the one hand I was being told I was a brilliant driver and that I could easily pass my test now on my driving skills. On the other hand here I am being told that I have to have 2 hours a week of lessons (at the lovely price of £40 may I add) or I wont be ready for my test. It makes no sense at all!! So now I’m in the game of attempting to find yet another instructor which is of course great fun.

So I felt slightly put out and not in the best mood to attend the meeting. Toi cut a long story short my lecturers are a great network of support. After a long discussion with my director of studies and a chat with my Literature lecture by chance I have submitted an application to become a full field literature student!! I’m so excited and scared at the prospect and it’ll be a lot of work but hopefully I’ll get my creative writing mojo back if I drop it! It’s very possiblethey will say no this late in the term but I have the full support of my lecturers. If not things have been put in place to make sure I will be a full field Literature student from second year onwards!

In the words of Katy Perry ‘You’re gonna hear me roar’ and that Kingston is what you are going to get.