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Author teaches teens stability
Life goes on

BY COLLEEN CURRAN
SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Apr 13, 2006

Ned Vizzini

What: Reading from and discussing "It's Kind of a Funny Story"

When: 7 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Barnes & Noble Short Pump, 11640 W. Broad St., (804) 360-0103

Info: www.nedvizzini.com

Three weeks after 23-year-old Ned Vizzini appeared on the "Today Show" to discuss his second book, "Be More Chill," he called an emergency hotline, threatened suicide and, acting on the operator's advice, checked himself into a psychiatric ward.

"Everybody thinks that after you make it as an author, you're set for life," Vizzini said from his home in New York City. "But I had plenty of concerns about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. And there's always pressure to do the next thing and to always be better."

Now, the 25-year-old author has done the next "better" thing. He's written a semi-autobiographical novel about his experiences.

"It's Kind of a Funny Story" is a funny and often illuminating story about teen depression. It's about Craig Gilner, an over-achieving 15-year-old who attends an elite private high school in Manhattan and cracks under the pressure. When he feels like he might kill himself, he checks into a psychiatric hospital, where he meets a cast of oddball characters, including a cutter named Noelle who has taken a pair of scissors to her face.

"It's 85 percent based on my life," Vizzini said. "I definitely went through the whole rigmarole. Only I didn't meet a love interest when I checked into the nut house."

Vizzini checked into Brooklyn's Methodist Hospital and stayed five days for depression. When he got out, he sat down and wrote "It's Kind of a Funny Story" in less than a month.

"I went through a pretty intense experience," Vizzini says. "I met a lot of darkness inside and met it head on. I came out with a decision to live that was very compelling. And I wanted to write about that."

But "It's Kind of a Funny Story" isn't just about the doom and gloom of teen depression; it also has a healthy dose of humor. "The thing that has always saved me is humor," Vizzini said.

At 15, Vizzini got his start writing columns for the New York Press about his high school experiences at Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School. When he was 17, he wrote an essay about the pressures of teen life for the New York Times Magazine called "Teen Angst? Naaah."

After that, Vizzini published his first book by the same title and a novel called "Be More Chill," about a kid who swallows a pill called a "squib" that helps him be cool. Both books earned Vizzini a steady spot on the high school speaking circuit, where he'd read from both books.

But now, Vizzini visits high schools across the country to talk about the very real problem of teen depression and suicide.

"When I visit schools, I ask kids, 'How many people here have been depressed before?' And tons of hands go up. I put my hand up, too, and say, 'All right, well, that's what this book is about.' I feel like if I can help one person or one student, then the mission of the book is accomplished."

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