I’ve spent a lot of time this week trying to sort out how I feel about this book but I can tell you one thing, there are lots of feels. LOTS of them. Lots of good, but also, lots of tough ones. It’s a perfect storm of feels all over the place.
Violet Markey and Theodore Finch are two quirky, likable characters who meet on the ledge of their school’s bell tower, both contemplating suicide. Maybe seriously, maybe not. But it soon becomes clear that Finch has a thing about death. He contemplates suicide quite a bit — at least the mechanics of it. The history of it. The statistics of it. It’s on his mind all the time.
Violet is dealing with the death of her sister. She feels responsible for the car accident that took her life, and even though Violet’s parents are much more in tune with helping her deal than Finch’s parents ever will be, they just can’t seem to get to the heart of healing. So when Finch ends up saving her from jumping (or did she save him?) a tenuous bond is formed between the semi-popular girl and the “freak.”
Paired for a school project, the two wander Indiana together, chronically interesting sights. Through the wandering, Violent emerges from her traumatized shell and, not surprisingly, she finds her feelings for Finch growing.
But his soul is as damaged as it is bright, and he struggles with depression so palpable that I honestly had trouble getting through some chapters without breaking down. His heart-breaking downward spiral plummets to a conclusion that, while anticipated, is still such a kick in the gut that it makes everything leading up to it seem like a paper cut.
In the end, though, this story isn’t about Finch but how Violet is changed by her time with him. The Author’s Note at the end is essential — and explains a lot. This is a personal thing for Jennifer Nivens and it shows. I can’t imagine the incredible difficulty of reliving such pain, but hopefully she found it cathartic.