In Memory of Ned Vizzini

It is a very sad day in not only the young adult community, online but the writing community, diagnosis the television community…hell, rx the world as a community. I woke up this morning to the sad news that Ned Vizzini had died last night, at the age of 32, in an apparent suicide.

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Ned Vizzini was the author of several books, most notably known for writing the semi-autobiographical novel, It’s Kind of a Funny Story. He’s also been penning a middle grade series, House of Secrets, with former Harry Potter director, Chris Columbus, and working on shows like Teen Wolf, and the yet to be released on TV, Believe, helmed by J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuaron. It’s Kind of a Funny Story chronicles the story of one boy dealing with depression and his decision to go to the hospital one night when his suicidal thoughts are too much for him to handle.

Ned himself dealt a lot with those kind of feelings, had his whole life and was incredibly outspoken about them, sharing his experiences. Teens all over the place looked up to him, and were changed by his novel and his voice.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I knew him well. Because I most definitely didn’t. I had the honor of meeting him a few months ago at the Los Angeles Teen Book Fest, where I was blown away by his quirkiness, his humor and his ability to talk about the things that most people don’t. His book blew me away, and it will remain one of my favorites for a very long time. There is no sugarcoating the material in his book; he dives right in and its just beautifully written.

I did have the chance to interview Ned, before that Los Angeles Teen Book Fest. The lovely Mary McCoy at the library helped me to get interviews with several of the authors, which was awesome, and helpful for the blog. One of those authors was Ned Vizzini. After some serious email tag back and forth, we decided on a quick phone interview.

To say that I was nervous would have been an understatement. I had just begun reading It’s Kind of a Funny Story and I was already blown away by it. I think there are more and more teen books about suicide and depression but Ned did it in a way that didn’t soften the blows of it, but also made it relatable, familiar and had a dark sort of humor about it. I was INCREDIBLY nervous to interview an author like that, especially over the phone. I’m not known for my exemplary phone skills.

But it went SO well. He was an incredibly busy man, working on his new middle grade series with Chris Columbus. He also was doing a ton of TV writing as well, writing for episodes for shows like Teen Wolf. He was currently working on a new show with JJ Abrams and Alfonso Cuaron, called Believe. He told me he wouldn’t have much time, so we got down to business, and got through all my questions, with great answers, in no time at all. He was extremely apologetic when he had to get off the phone, because he was needed. I remember laughing, thinking “Um, I’m pretty sure JJ ABRAMS is a bit more important that a 25-year-old book blogger…”.

A few days later, I met him at the Teen Fest, and we talked in person. He was sweet, funny, and I felt incredibly lucky to have a chance to interview this amazing author. He also made me feel very good about myself. He told me I sounded incredibly professional, had great questions and did a great job with the interview. As a person who is just dipping her toes into this world, I felt extremely complimented and I felt honored that such a compliment came from such a worthy person.

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He signed my book, thanked me again, and I went on my way.

So no, I didn’t know Ned personally. I had the chance to meet and interview him this year, along with countless other authors. But I’m a reader. Every book that I read, the ones that I like, the ones that touch me, stay with me. And when I meet an author and have a connection with him, have a story about them that I’ll remember, I do remember it. Meeting Ned and interviewing him this year was just another piece of an amazing year and I was incredibly heartbroken to hear about this man’s passing.

I know that this will pass under a lot of people’s radars. He wasn’t a huge revolutionary figure like Nelson Mandela or a well-known movie star like Paul Walker or Peter O’Toole. But he was important, as we are all important. And his death sends a message to us. His death made me sad, and nervous at the same time. So many teens have reached out to this book, and to Ned, as a safety net, as a life line during their own hard times. Ned had been outspoken about the seriousness of depression and suicidal thoughts for so long, and he himself eventually succumbed to it. I was nervous about the impact that this would have on his novel, and his books, but I’d like to think of it like this: the very tragic death of this wonderful author only shows us more the importance of his message. Always get help when you need it. Don’t be alone, reach out, and get help. Call a friend, a family member, call the hotlines. Always get help.

Ned Vizzini will definitely be missed, as a writer, as an advocate and as a person.

You can read my interview with Ned here.

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