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It's so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself" is the attention-grabbing first line of Vizzini's (Be More Chill) highly readable and ultimately upbeat novel. Though Craig was elated when he passed the entry exam for Manhattan's highly competitive Executive Pre-Professional High School, during his first year there he grows increasingly overwhelmed. Matters aren't helped by his new habit of smoking pot and then tormenting himself by hanging out with his best friend, Aaron, and Aaron's girlfriend, Nia, on whom Craig has a longstanding crush. Unable to eat and seriously considering suicide, Craig checks himself into a psychiatric hospital. There, Craig finds his true calling as a visual artist, begins a promising romantic relationship with another patient, helps yet another patient get a place in an adult home, and arranges a thoughtful treat for his reclusive Egyptian roommate-all in a mere five days, a timeframe that readers struggling with their own issues may find somewhat daunting. Still, few would begrudge Craig his exhilarating recovery. The author clearly has not lost his knack for conveying the textures of teenage life. Ages 13-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Gr. 9-12. When Craig Gilner gets into Manhattan's exclusive Executive Pre-Professional High School, it's the culmination of a year of intense focus and grinding hard work. Now he has to actually attend the school with other equally high-performing students. Oops. And so the unraveling begins, with a depressed Craig spending more time smoking dope and throwing up than studying. Although medication helps his depression, he decides to stop taking it. Soon after, he makes another decision: to commit suicide. A call to a suicide hotline gets him into a psychiatric hospital, where he is finally able to face his demons. Readers must suspend their disbelief big time for this to work. Because the teen psych ward is undergoing renovations, Craig is put in with adults, which provides the narrative with an eccentric cast of characters rather than just similarly screwed-up teens. And in his five days in the hospital, Craig manages to cure his eating disorder, find a girlfriend, realize he wants to be an artist, and solve many of his co-residents' problems, including locating Egyptian music for his roommate, who won't get out of bed. What could he do if he wasn't depressed! But what's terrific about the book is Craig's voice--intimate, real, funny, ironic, and one kids will come closer to hear. Many readers will be familiar with the drugs, the sexual experimentation, the language, and, yes, the depression--or they'll know someone who is. This book offers hope in a package that readers will find enticing, and that's the gift it offers. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2006 Booklist
School Library Journal
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Gr 9 Up-When 15-year-old Craig Gilner is accepted by a prestigious Manhattan high school, the pressure becomes taxing, and he finds himself battling depression. Partying and drugs don't help. As his illness intensifies, he is aided by his supportive family and perceptive therapist. A prescription for Zoloft improves things, until Craig decides that he is better and stops taking it. In a revitalized state of depression, he calls a suicide-prevention hotline and then checks into a hospital, where the only space available is in the adult psychiatric wing. There, he receives the help he needs, discovers his hidden artistic talents, and connects with the quirky patients who have plenty of problems of their own, including Noelle, a girl his own age. Craig's well-paced narrative, carefully and insightfully detailing his confusing slide and his desperate efforts to get well, is filled with humor and pathos. His thoughts reveal a sensitive teen unsure about sex, friendships, himself, and his future. An almost unbelievable amount of self-realization, including his first two romantic encounters, occurs in the whirlwind five-day hospital stay. However, the book ends on a note of hope, despite Craig's unwise anticipation of a relationship with Noelle. This novel will appeal to readers drawn to Brent Runyon's The Burn Journals (Knopf, 2004), which is another powerful but more extreme look at a likable teen returning from the brink of suicide.-Diane P. Tuccillo, City of Mesa Library, AZ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.