Craig Gilner is fifteen, and he wants to kill himself.
He feels like he’s under pressure from every direction, and no one–not his parents, not his teachers at his pre-professional high school, not his best friend to whom everything comes easily, not the girl he has a crush on–seems to understand. The “tentacles” of responsibility and social obligation are tangling through his life and he gets to the point where he can’t even manage to sleep or keep food down. Finally, when it all gets to be too much, Craig checks himself into the psych ward to try and get some help.
I actually saw the movie version of this first, and enjoyed it quite a bit. While the film focuses entirely on Craig’s time in the mental hospital, the book adds in a lot of the time leading up to that. It definitely shows just how Craig ended losing it, but it also expands the role of his family and friends. The first half of the book was basically a lead-up to the second half, which is the time he actually spends in the hospital.
On the whole, I liked this a lot — the main character’s voice is really likeable and seemed authentic to me. I also enjoyed the secondary characters, though I felt like some of them could have been a little more three-dimensional, particularly Noelle, the love interest. She occasionally came out with some interesting dialogue, but I didn’t feel like I got a good sense of her as a person. It’s a good YA book with some interesting turns — but I actually prefer the movie. The character played in the film by Zach Galifianakis, Bobby, is much less important in the book, and I missed him. Craig needed a foil, which the book doesn’t necessarily provide.