Ned Vizzini, the author of YA favorites It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Be More Chill, died Thursday in New York City. According to the Los Angeles Times, Vizzini committed suicide. He was 32.
Vizzini, a Brooklyn native, began writing professionally for New York City newspapers as a teenager in the late ’90s. His first book, a “quasi-autogiobraphy” called Teen Angst? Naaah…, collected several of Vizzini’s columns for the New York Press and shared its title with an essay Vizzini had published in the New York Times Magazine when he was still a junior at Manhattan’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School. The book hit shelves in 2000. His first novel, Be More Chill, was published in 2004.
That same year, Vizzini experienced depression and suicidal thoughts, which prompted him to call a suicide hotline. Vizzini subsequently spent a week in the psychiatric ward of Brooklyn’s Methodist Hospital. Vizzini would later fictionalize this experience in his acclaimed second novel, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, published in 2006. The novel was adapted into a film starring Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, and Emma Roberts in 2010.
Though Vizzini continued to publish books – his teen fantasy The Other Normals came out in 2012 and House of Secrets, the first of three planned collaborations with director Chris Columbus, was released earlier this year – he also branched out into television work after moving from New York to Los Angeles. Vizzini co-wrote two episodes of MTV’s Teen Wolf and served as a story editor on Shawn Ryan’s short-lived ABC drama Last Resort. (Ryan was one of the first people to report Vizzini’s death, via Twitter last night.)
Vizzini is survived by his wife Sabra Embury, a book critic for The L Magazine, and their 2-year-old son.
“What I would like young adults to take away from It’s Kind of a Funny Story is that if you’re feeling suicidal, call a hotline,” Vizzini said in an interview with Strength of Us, an online community developed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, after the film version of Funny Story was released. “Suicidal ideation really is a medical emergency and if more people knew to call the suicide hotline we’d have less suicides. One number, as related in the book (and just verified on Google), is 1-800-SUICIDE.”
Update: Alessandra Balzer, co-publisher of the HarperCollins imprint Balzer + Bray – which published both The Other Normals and House of Secrets – has released a statement about Vizzini’s death:
“I was devastated to learn of Ned Vizzini’s death today. Ned was a preternatural talent – a brilliant, insightful writer and a dazzling storyteller who was one of the leading pioneers of YA literature as we know it. I have had the great privilege of working with Ned on his novels since his debut, Be More Chill, which he wrote when he was still in college. He created characters who were outsiders trying to find their way, and he did it with such humor and empathy. He was also incredibly kind and he adored his family and friends. At his signings, countless kids would approach him to say that he changed their lives – he gave them hope. And he was always generous to his fans. Ned’s books will be read and beloved for generations to come. This is a tragic loss for all who knew him and were inspired by his work.”
Alfonso Cuarón and Bad Robot Productions, the company behind the upcoming NBC series Believe – on which Vizzini was working before his death – have released a statement as well:
“We are incredibly saddened at the loss of our dear friend and colleague Ned Vizzini. On behalf of everyone in the Believe family, we offer our deepest condolences and heartfelt best wishes to his friends and family, especially his wife and son, at this most challenging of times.”