Ned Vizzini, a multi-talented writer celebrated for his young adult novels and television work, died on Thursday, December 19, in New York City, at the age of 32. He committed suicide.
Vizzini was born and grew up in New York City and began writing professionally as a teenager, penning essays and articles for the New York Press and other publications, including the New York Times. In 2000, when he was 19, Vizzini’s first book, Teen Angst? Naaah…: A Quasi Autobiography, a memoir about his experiences attending junior high and Stuyvesant High School, was published by Free Spirit. He continued writing for the newspaper and saw his first YA novel, Be More Chill (Hyperion) published in 2004.
The author’s 2006 novel, It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Hyperion/Miramax), chronicles a teenage boy’s stay in a New York psychiatric hospital after he is overwhelmed by pressure at school and has suicidal thoughts. In a 2007 interview with the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Vizzini told writer James Blasingame that “It’s Kind of a Funny Story was based on my real life and is 85% true.” He described how he had called a suicide hotline and subsequently spent five days in a psychiatric ward in 2004. The novel was adapted as a feature film in 2010 starring Zack Galifianakis.
Earlier this year Vizzini co-authored the middle-grade fantasy-adventure House of Secrets, the first title in a proposed series, with film director Chris Columbus. In a profile of their collaboration, Columbus told PW why he selected Vizzini as his co-writer: “I really responded to Ned’s writing,” Columbus said. “I loved his voice and his strong ear for teenage dialogue, and thought he really connected to the emotions of adolescence.”
Vizzini’s editor at HarperCollins, Alessandra Balzer, co-publisher, Balzer + Bray, also offered warm words of praise. “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.”
Vizzini’s television writing credits include MTV’s Teen Wolf, and the NBC drama Believe, created by Alfonso Cuarón and executive produced by J.J. Abrams. The series is set to air in March 2014.