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It’s Kind of a Funny Story Summary, Characters and Themes

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is a young adult novel by Ned Vizzini. 

It follows Craig, an ambitious teenager struggling with severe depression. Overwhelmed by academic pressures and his own anxieties, he checks himself into a psychiatric hospital. There, he befriends other patients and finds unexpected support that helps him begin dealing with his mental health and discovering meaning in life. The book offers a poignant and often humorous look at mental illness and the importance of seeking help.


Craig Gilner, a Brooklyn teen, is drowning in the pressures of his elite Manhattan high school, Executive Pre-Professional. 

Haunted by anxieties born from academic expectations and his unrequited love for his best friend’s girlfriend, Nia, Craig’s mind spirals with a vocabulary of its own – Cycling, Tentacles, Anchors, and the ever-fleeting Shift that promises relief.

Sleepless, unable to eat, and increasingly depressed, he seeks help. Zoloft brings a temporary respite—the “Fake Shift”— but when he stops taking it, the darkness returns, amplifying his suicidal thoughts. 

The image of the Brooklyn Bridge becomes a grim beacon. In a desperate final moment, instead of ending things, Craig seeks help, dialing the suicide hotline and ultimately checking himself into a hospital.

The youth ward is closed, so Craig finds himself on Six North, the adult psychiatric ward. 

Here, he meets a quirky but welcoming cast of patients. There’s Bobby, an older man endearingly desperate to reconnect with his young daughter; Muqtada, a gentle giant with a fondness for Egyptian music; and Noelle, a troubled girl his own age who sees past his facade. 

Amidst his fear of missing school and losing face with his peers, Craig slowly opens up, bonding with this strange, new community.

His former passion for drawing maps resurfaces. 

No longer abstract landscapes, his maps become intricate portraits of his fellow patients, their personalities and struggles woven into the imaginary cityscapes laid within the outline of a brain.

Yet, the outside world continues to intrude. 

Nia, the one person Craig had confided in, betrays his trust by sharing his location with his best friend Aaron. A drunken, dismissive phone call from Aaron shatters their friendship. Nia later visits, leading to a stolen kiss, interrupted by Muqtada, that confuses Craig and angers Noelle.

Through therapy, art, and the unexpected support of the people on Six North, Craig begins to understand and battle his anxieties. The simple act of eating becomes less of a struggle. 

The idea of transferring to an art-focused school takes root, offering a path away from the relentless pressures. However, Craig must first overcome his father’s initial objections, a battle won through newly found assertiveness.

His final day on Six North marks the blossoming of his relationship with Noelle and the tentative repair of his friendship with Aaron. 

As Craig leaves the hospital, a newfound sense of hope fills him. He may not be cured, but he’s learned to cope, found meaning in unexpected friendships, and discovered a path forward, one that prioritizes his mental well-being.

It's Kind of a Funny Story Summary, Characters and Themes


Craig Gilner

Craig is the complex protagonist at the heart of this story. 

He’s a high-achieving, academically gifted teenager with an intelligent, often philosophical inner voice. However, his relentless quest for perfection and social pressures fuel a crippling anxiety that manifests in physical symptoms and ultimately leads to severe depression. 

While deeply empathetic and caring, he can be self-absorbed. 

Though he often presents a stoic façade, he slowly reveals his vulnerabilities and the intense internal battles he fights. Throughout his hospital stay, Craig undergoes significant growth. 

He learns about himself, begins to manage his anxiety, and embraces his creative side, paving the way for a more balanced and hopeful future.


Noelle is a fellow patient on Six North who becomes Craig’s love interest. Self-destructive and scarred by past trauma, she hides her fragility behind a tough exterior and dark humor. 

Yet, she possesses a perceptive nature and sees the good in Craig. 

Their connection is raw and complex; they find solace and a sense of understanding in each other. While Noelle’s ultimate fate is left ambiguous, she serves as a catalyst for Craig’s growth and self-discovery.


Aaron is Craig’s best friend and a source of both envy and frustration for him. Popular and outgoing, Aaron appears to possess everything Craig desires, including the affections of Nia. 

Initially, Aaron comes across as insensitive and dismissive of Craig’s struggles. 

However, he eventually confronts his own shortcomings and apologizes, showcasing that beneath the bravado, he does care about Craig and wants to repair their friendship.


Bobby is one of the most endearing residents of Six North. An older man with a history of failed attempts to reconnect with his daughter, his story highlights the pain of familial disconnect. 

Bobby becomes a father figure to Craig, offering advice and much-needed warmth on the ward. Despite his own struggles, Bobby maintains a sense of optimism and a gentle humor that is a beacon for others.

Dr. Minerva

Dr. Minerva is Craig’s psychiatrist within the hospital. She’s portrayed as kind and insightful, and her therapeutic sessions with Craig offer him clarity. 

These sessions act as guideposts throughout the novel, helping Craig understand his anxieties and formulate ways to manage them. Dr. Minerva represents a positive adult voice that Craig can rely on as he begins his healing journey.


The Stigma of Mental Illness and the Importance of Seeking Help

Ned Vizzini’s novel offers a raw and unflinching look at the shame and stigma that often surround mental illness. 

Before his breakdown, Craig embodies a dangerous societal belief: that needing help for anxiety and depression implies weakness, and that only those who have experienced severe trauma are deserving of compassion. His inner monologue is filled with self-invalidation, as he questions the “legitimacy” of his problems compared to others. 

This internalized stigma delays him from seeking help early and leads to a deepening of his crisis. However, the act of checking himself into the hospital becomes a turning point. While Craig still worries about the judgment of others, he witnesses firsthand the courage and strength of patients facing various mental health challenges. 

This experience gradually chips away at the self-imposed shame, ultimately leading him to realize that actively seeking help is one of the bravest choices he could make.

The Pressures of Success and the Quest for Meaning

The relentless pressure to excel drives much of Craig’s anxiety and depression. Executive Pre-Professional, with its cutthroat competitiveness and narrow definition of success, embodies a system that values external achievements over inner well-being. 

Craig becomes consumed by the pursuit of perfection, grades, and future status, losing touch with his own passions and sense of self. This internal battle is symbolized by the “Tentacles” that grip him – representations of his anxieties and the relentless pressure to perform. 

However, within the confines of Six North, Craig starts to question this hollow definition of success. Through interactions with other patients, he sees that life paths aren’t linear and that achievement doesn’t guarantee happiness. 

The rediscovery of his love for art, dormant since childhood, offers a path towards self-fulfillment and a sense of purpose outside the rigid expectations placed upon him.

The Healing Power of Human Connection

At its core, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is about the transformative power of connection. 

Craig initially feels isolated, believing his struggles set him apart. Within Six North, he finds an unlikely source of solidarity. The motley crew of patients—with their quirks, traumas, and unique struggles—becomes a makeshift family. 

They offer non-judgmental acceptance, humor in the face of darkness, and a reminder that he’s not alone. His budding romance with Noelle, another teen facing her own demons, adds a layer of vulnerability and tenderness. 

These bonds prove that shared experiences can create profound connection, validating Craig’s feelings and offering hope. They teach him the importance of community and illustrate that simply being seen, heard, and loved can be life-changing catalysts for healing.

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