Rating: 3 Stars
Published: January 2015
Genre: YA // Contemporary
“What if life could be this way? Only the happy parts, none of the terrible, not even the mildly unpleasant. What if we could just cut out the bad and keep the good?”
Summary taken from Goodreads:
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 death.
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.
There were a lot of things I liked about the writing of this book and there were a bunch of things that I didn’t like it, either. It was heartbreaking, yes, but it was also predictable. Be warned, folks, this is going to be a long one.
As a book about suicide and mental illness, I’m shocked that there’s barely, if any, adults who take it seriously. There’s a counselor at school, sure, but even he doesn’t treat it well, I don’t think. He makes a little bit of an effort but not as much as he should.
I’m not really a fan of Violet. I can’t picture her clearly and while she’s depressed over her sister’s death, it’s hard for that to feel real when I don’t know the sister well. The accident isn’t described in too much detail and I just felt detached from her character. Theodore Finch, on the other hand, is a clear standout for me but even he doesn’t seem entirely real. He kinda reminded me of that movie Charlie Bartlett. He’s a bunch of high energy and crazy thoughts until he crashes and I just kept picturing him as Charlie. Finch is a character that I would love to talk to but I don’t think he’s completely original. While I loved reading about him, I felt like I had met him before. And whether that’s because I kept thinking of Charlie, I don’t know.
I read a review that mentioned how the teenagers in the book just know the names of famous poets and authors out of thin air. They think it’s unrealistic. I disagree, I know all those names, too. They’re not uncommon or obscure names by any means. Most of them, we learn about in high school. Also, Finch admits to googling quotes. As a bibliophile, I don’t think it’s uncommon to know a few relatable quotes. I know some and have a better memory with things I read than things I listen to. People all learn a different way and I think it’s completely plausible for things like that to happen in the book. I enjoyed the inclusion of different quotes and lines of Virginia Woolf. I made me realize I should read more of her.
“The thing suicides don’t focus on is their wake. Not just your parents and siblings, but your friends, your girlfriends, your classmates, your teachers.”
I like the way he seems to think I have many, many people depending on me, including not just one but multiple girlfriends.”
While this quote kinda turned into a joke, it’s important. Not all people have those who depend on them. Depression doesn’t take that into consideration, either. Even though it may hurt to leave them, people with depression know that it hurts more for them to stay.
A lot of people are comparing this book to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I can see the similarities but it’s also very different. Some have even stretched it to Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park and I can’t really see enough sameness to even consider comparing the two. I think this book would do well on its own instead of being compared to other YA contemporaries.
“He doesn’t budge except to squint at me. Like most people in the Midwest, Embryo doesn’t believe in humor, especially when it pertains to sensitive subjects.”
Finch’s character is critical to understanding. He comments about going up to the top of a building, “Standing on the ledge of the bell tower isn’t about dying. It’s about having control. It’s about never going to sleep again.” Control is a huge part of mental illness. Just feeling in control is a huge make it or break it moment. There are a lot of parts, like this one, that hit it right on the nose. Those are the moments that made this book worth reading.
There’s a moment when Violet tells her mom Finch is just a friend and she continues by narrating, “I don’t know why I say this, but I don’t want them asking me what he means or what this is, especially when I’m not really sure myself.” I love this because that’s what I say when my parents ask. I don’t want them to tell them about someone if it’s not going to last. And I feel like, if I don’t know, my parents shouldn’t know either. This may seem unimportant given the rest of the subject matter. However, I think it’s good to note that while these characters are going through a lot that may or may not be relatable, they’re still teenagers.
I applaud Niven for writing about suicide at the end of the book with information on where to get help. It’s important, I think, to realize that while this is just a novel, there are people seriously ill in this world. While you may want them to stay because they are loved, when depressed, it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters but the amount of pain you’re feeling. Amanda expresses this thought in the book to Violet but I don’t think it was given enough emphasis.
Over all, I enjoyed the book. I don’t think it’s a good portrayal of the issues it raised but I think it’s still an enjoyable YA read. Though, that does pose some questions about people taking it at face value while there’s still a lot of things to talk about. I think this book could a jumping off point for people to talk about mental health issues. However, I think the book is a little overrated. It’s getting too much hype. Yes, I think there should be more books written about different mental health issues to bring them to light, but the hype fails to normalize the issues by making them standout. These books should just be available. I don’t really know how to explain more of my feelings on this subject. I guess I just wish there were more books about this subject which flew a little more under the radar just like a lot of other great novels. Just because it’s written about suicide doesn’t mean that it’s an inherently good book. Bottom line: I did want to keep reading and the writing was decent, but I don’t think it was fantastic.
I just found out that it’s going to be a movie and Jennifer Niven is going to be writing the screenplay. While that’s wonderful and all, I always wonder how they pick which YA are chosen to make it to the big screen and why none of the awesome fantasy novels I’ve read never make it there. Not to mention all the awesome contemporaries that exist.
What did you think? Is this book on par with others you have read about the same subject or do you think it’s getting too much hype like some people? Are you excited for the movie or are you going to pass on it? Share your thoughts below.