This is a great little story of redemption and hope. Craig, an over-achieving boy who just got into a prestigious high school, is in over his head. After spending a year studying for the test to get into his school, Craig finds that the school’s rigorous studies are too much for him. Unable to eat or sleep, Craig decides to kill himself, but at the last minute, he instead calls a suicide hotline, which leads him to the hospital, which leads him to the psychiatric ward.
Because of a remodel, the teen ward is closed, so Craig is housed with the adult inmates. They are, as you might expect in a psychiatric ward, crazy, but Vizzini handles them with sympathy and understanding. I imagine this story is largely autobiographical, as Craig also has a great deal of sympathy and affection for his fellow inpatients.
Craig begins to feel better almost immediately, and over the course of five days, he figures out that the solution to his problem is to go to a different high school and stop hanging out with his loser, pot-smoking friends. He also starts eating again, meets a pretty girl, and reacquaints himself with the art of his childhood.
One of the things I liked most about this novel was the length and depth of it. It’s succinct. While Craig’s problems were serious, everyone is serious about helping him to get better. This is not “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” You get the feeling that everyone, especially the staff, really cares. I suppose it’s strange to call a story about an attempted suicide being in a mental hospital a happy story, but it is.
There were a couple of small things that I disliked. I disliked the girls Craig talked to. Their behavior was weird. It just didn’t feel natural. For example, both his sister and another girl called Craig “silly.” Three year olds call people “silly.” Fifteen year olds don’t, in my experience.
The narrator wasn’t the best either. Some of the voices were interesting, but the women sounded squeaky or tranny or falsetto, and the Egyptian roommate sounded like a soviet bad guy.
I liked this novel. I’d recommend it for general book-club type book lovers, and for disaffected or overwrought teens.