First off, TRIGGER WARNING for suicide, depression, and other related forms of mental illness. These feature greatly in the review and in the book itself (like featuring IN THE NEXT SENTENCE greatly).
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent passing.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself: a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. (via Goodreads)
Although we’re in both Finch’s and Violet’s minds, the book feels like it’s being written from the point of view of a looker-oner, not one with suicidal intentions… and that happens all too often in YA fiction.
As hard as suicide is for the people surrounding that person, I think it’s also important for teens to be able to find a voice that explains to them how suicidal people feel, and not necessarily how suicides are “caused” by surrounding conditions.
I MEAN THIS. This is a serious topic, and this IS a book about a serious topic, so I think this review should be at least partly, well, serious. Nearly all suicides in teen fiction have a “cause.” Yes, maybe we know they are bullied or come from a bad family situation… but that shouldn’t explain 100% of suicides in teen fiction. Because 90% of suicides in real life are caused by mental illness, usually untreated depression (trust me, I just looked that up). And while 10% of suicides ARE caused by bad conditions or other reasons, and it’s important for them to be represented, the 90%, which has become the minority, deserves to be addressed, too.
I know that suicide is a deeply personal and probably triggering thing, and that authors with suicidal experiences may be unwilling to write about these feelings at a deeper level, but I really do think it’s important to have books that everyone can identify with. I’m just throwing this out there, because with every book I read about suicide, there are reviewers who have had suicidal experiences and really need to see themselves represented in fiction.
In all honesty, this felt just like another YA romance book… WHICH WE ALREADY HAVE ENOUGH OF.
Quirky, outcast, weird Character A is miserable, but A meets Character B and they fall in love. A forgets about his/her worries for the time being, but then Sad Things Happen. I’m serious. Take a look at The Fault in Our Stars or maybe Divergent. SAME. EXACT. FORMULA.
That being SAID, I don’t think this was a terrible book at all. It was terrifyingly nuanced.
The book is told in alternating perspectives between Theodore, more commonly known only by his last name, Finch, and Love Interest Violet Markey, who has just lost her sister, who is known as simply Violet. Both have different kinds of grief; Finch has a dysfunctional family, and Violet, well, I think it’s pretty self-explanatory from the situation. They’re both incredibly different, and although I found their narration styles vaguely similar (and kept mixing them up… call me a bad reader it was 10 PM and I worked on a farm all day), I loved them as people. I definitely related to Violet more, because she was more cautious, good-girl, and… her parents were her friends. Which is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT.
Oooooh, and I also LOOOOOOOVE road trip novels!
So it’s not about an actual *road trip* but it definitely has some elements that are similar to road trip novels. Violet and Finch have to discover the wonders of the state of Indiana, USA, and they end up going to new places and seeing new things, and although there are no snacks or tunes involved (Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour still has me wanting Skittles, Lifesavers, and music… if I listened to anything but the same five songs on repeat), IT WAS STILL AWESOME AND AMAZING. I love seeing characters discover new places. Although after a bunch of traveling I did this summer I think I’m pretty happy to sit right here on my bed for a while.
And I loved the quotes and the friendship!
So basically, Violet and Finch become friends by quoting stuff at each other. WHICH IS LIVING THE DREAM FOR ANY BOOK LOVER, duh. I believe it was Woolf they were quoting at each other? Though I’m not sure. It’s 12 AM now. I am extraordinarily tired. Farming (again) will do that to you sometimes. I don’t think this is at all the proper way to end a review.
But apparently this is! So yes: I had some problems with the cliched-suicide-YA-romance-y-ness of the book, but all in all it was a really good novel with memorable characters and a road-trip-esque feel. I feel like I may have appreciated it more if I’d been a bigger fan of contemporary, but who knows?