Series and Book #: none
Ambitious teen Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life—which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job. He accomplishes step one by getting into Manhattan’s extremely selective Executive Pre-Professional High School. And that’s when things start to get crazy.
At Craig’s new school, the pressure is unbearable. There, he’s just average, and maybe not even that. He sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. Craig 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 a recovering garbage-head named Bobby who needs his help. There, isolated from the crushing stresses of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.
The characters were my favorite part of the story. Craig had so many people and influences in his life. His school friends, who treated him terribly; his family, who loved him and wanted him to get better no matter what; and the adults at the hospital, who helped him realize what real friends were like and helped him deal with his depression. Craig was also an excellent character to watch develop and change. He's trying to be a normal kid while at the same time trying to be an adult.
The plot hops around a lot. The first couple of chapters have Craig depressed, then the next few have him not, and then it goes back to before high school, to when he's depressed again and finally to the hospital. I would have liked if everything had been a sequence of events rather than a reference to the past and then being plopped back into the present.
Overall, Craig doesn't really act like he's depressed. I mean, I knew he was. I could tell by the way he was uncomfortable and nervous all the time, wondering if anything was going to happen with his friends around, but he was upbeat and tried so hard to be normal for everybody. I also loved how much his character changed. Ned Vizzini wrote the transition excellently, taking us from Point A: the beginning of the depression with his stressful school and mean friends, to Point B: managing his depression and finding that life doesn't have to be about girls and drugs and trying to fit in.
The Cover: I love the map brain. Craig's own city of his mind.