Published by Knopf on January 2015
Genres: Contemporary YA
Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”
Finch and Violet meet on the ledge at school — both wondering what it would be like to jump. One becomes a hero and saves the other — but only the two of them know the truth of what happened up there. When they are paired together on a school project that leads them traipsing all over and exploring natural wonders in their state, the two feel alive together and like themselves. But can that feeling last? Is it enough for the boy who always thinks about death and is called a freak? Is it enough for the girl who lost her sister and has let fear get in the way of living?
Oh MAN you guys. OH MAN. This was our book club pick for April and I have so many thoughts and feelings about this one. This one had to simmer a bit in my head because I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the whole of it. It was a very feels-y book and I spent a long time SOBBING by the end. Like, had to put the book down and listen to Will say, “Why do you read books like that if they make you do this?” BECAUSE I AM LIKE TO INFLICT PAIN ON MYSELF, K?
I have to say that I had a rough start with this one. I was getting a little frustrated in the beginning because I’m like OKAY BOOK. We are meant to be. If we were on a dating website together we would have totally been matched together with like 100% compatibility. WHY ARE THERE NOT FIREWORKS AND SPARKS? I mean, this book screamed Jamie (promises of major heart-wrenching things, kind of dark subject matter, quirky characters, romance, etc). And the writing was really good! SO WHAT WAS THE ISSUE?
Despite that, I was smitten with Theo’s voice IMMEDIATELY — he made me laugh and he was just this bright spirited person that felt like they were living life in full color at some times. But at the same time he made my heart quake with sadness and that deeply rooted brokenness so much so that it was a little unnerving. He seemed quirky and alive but as you keep reading you realize that, yes it is part him, but also some of those eccentricities are part of his mental illness…the things others in his life didn’t recognize. His voice just took over for me and at times seemed to make Violet fade into the background a little for me. Her voice just wasn’t as strong for me and I was sad about that because I felt like I should have been able to connect with her.
But then it DID happen for me halfway through the book. Suddenly I was emotionally connecting with this book (and both characters) in a real way. I felt like I was soaring but I also had that anxiety just growing in my chest as the book progressed. I was really loving the relationship between Theo and Violet, coming from two different social stratospheres, and how he was showing her how to live again yet there was that deepest darkest black hole of sadness within him. It made for some confusing and intense emotions. I loved their adventures and their wandering. There was just a certain electricity when they interacted — that pinch that reminds you that you are still alive. I was nervous this was going to be simplified to an “oh a romance saves all” sort of story but I was really pleased, FOR THE MOST PART, to see how mental illness was explored in this one.
By the end I was gutted. I mean, I don’t think a book so far this year has truly emptied every tear from my body like this one did. I felt everything. Like I lived it right with them. I felt hopeful but I also felt like I just wanted to collapse because my muscles and my heart and everything within me had been overworked while experiencing this one. But I also felt conflicted which I’ll try to explain before.
And now I need to talk spoilers sooo if you have NOT read this and do not want to be spoiled…don’t click this and just move to my rating and other non-spoilery things below!!View Spoiler »
So, I wanted to talk about the suicide because I had a lot of feelings that I kept mulling over for about a week. I was gutted but I actually found it to be more realistic than a lot of the things I read where it seems that a romance can always fix what is broken. So in one way I was really like WOW WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME but I was like I think this makes a lot of sense — Finch didn’t get help. His parents were crap and nobody in his life — besides Violet at the end who even dropped the ball IMO — seems to do much of anything to TRULY help him because either they don’t see it, ignore it or think “oh that’s just Finch.”. The relationship he and Violet had made him feel alive at times and I think he WAS trying so so hard while he was also trying to help Violet start living again but depression isn’t that easy. I understood, from my own personal experience with depression, how sometimes none of the really good things in your life feel like they matter. No matter how amazing they are. No matter who loves you. It’s hard to hang on sometimes. It’s hard to care. And sometimes you can feel happy and exuberant and alive but it’s always there.
So, in that way, I was like WOW powerfully done and so so so soooo sad and tragic and heartbreaking and bittersweet. But it didn’t shy away from the truth. It went through that agony of knowing how hard he tried to live for Violet but ultimately he couldn’t see his way out of it. And as much as it was so obvious to me, as a reader that something was very wrong and he needed help, in some ways I did find it realistic that people might not have taken Finch seriously..that they might have missed it and just thought he was eccentric.
I think that I struggled in a few places if I’m honest. I felt like his suicide was a bit romanticized. Even while I was feeling emotional about it I was kind of like, AH BUT THIS FEELS SO ROMANTICIZED. Like could he have really gotten it together in the depths of one of his episodes to do that whole wild goose chase of clues for Violet? I don’t know…it was just all so tragic. Because at the end, despite how emotional it all made me, I don’t know how I felt about how it was handled. I see realistic things from my own experience but also I just was left feeling incredibly sad for Finch. Sad that nobody could help him. Sad because I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel right now. Sad because I don’t know how someone who feels hopeless like Finch will read this book?
I just feel sad in general thinking about my friend who committed suicide. My friend was this bright and fun person and a lot of people didn’t know or see it. She, like Finch, could fool you by her wild antics and her fun-loving personality. But there were signs. Her family saw them. Her friends saw them (she and I weren’t close anymore — just talked here and there — so I really had no idea). I think nobody thought she would take her own life. They knew she was struggling but I don’t know that they knew the extent. I remember talking to a friend who had remained close to her and she felt so guilty because she knew Tori wasn’t okay but didn’t KNOW to what extent. Our families were really close so I learned that the parents were planning on getting help for her after her brother’s wedding and things settled down (she committed suicide the very next day). The guilt they feel? It’s been years and her mom and dad will never be the same — it’s written on their faces and they still look deflated to me. I just feel sad because I know Finch’s story is so realistic. That even people who have caring friends and family around them can still be failed because not everyone understands the extent or the severity.
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Re-readability: I don’t know if I could handle a reread.
Would I buy a copy for my collection? I did buy it because I heard good things & it was for book club. Because I won’t reread it nor is it an all time favorite, I will be donating it to my library.
fans of contemporary YA, readers looking for books exploring mental illness, readers who like books that will wreck their hearts, fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell (though I really do think you can like this even if you don’t like either of those but fans looking for comparable titles I think this is a good one)
It took a while for me to really fall in love for this one, despite how drawn I was to Finch’s voice, but once I did connect it just took off for me. This was an emotional story that made me sob uncontrollably and made me thankful for the bright places I am in now compared to the dark places I once have been. However, I’m still here trying to decide how I feel about some things at the end. I’m really conflicted about those things. So while I was emotionally moved by the story I had a lot of things to think about at the end. I am always thankful for a book that can make me think about it deeper.
* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?
How did you feel about the portrayal of mental illness/suicide in this one?