By Jennifer Niven.
The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
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.
This concept isn’t wholly original. I was reminded of A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby right at the beginning. I read it almost ten years ago and that premise also involves strangers meeting by chance on a rooftop while having suicidal thoughts. I liked the introduction of both main characters though, and I warmed up to them pretty quickly.
One thing I really liked was the back and forth of Virginia Woolf quotes, and the mention of The Waves. I liked the touch of having them basically google for more quotes, which is far more realistic than trying to convince us that a couple of teenagers would know all of those by heart. As soon as I finished this book, I downloaded The Waves and I loved it. It was refreshing and unusual and exactly what I needed. I was expecting it to have some reviews from people who had done the same as me, and was surprised to find none. I maintain hope that in the future it leads more people to find that book.
While I enjoy wandering immensely and was fairly entertained by the places they went to, being assigned to do it for a school project felt a bit forced, and was little more than a convenient way to make Violet and Finch spend time together.
One thing I didn’t understand was why they didn’t look harder for Finch when he disappeared. It’s one thing to be unaware of your son’s problems, it’s another to just ignore the fact that he ran away from home. Now, maybe I watch too many crime TV shows, but I kept thinking that they could easily track his car, or even the GPS signal on his phone while he was keeping in touch.
After reading some of the reviews out there, I also want to address two of the main comments I’ve seen before I wrap this up.
[NOTE: While all my reviews are spoiled, there are also spoilers ahead for The Fault in Our Stars (TFIOS) – the movie, I have not read the book and don’t know how closely the movie follows the source material.]
Comment 1: the book manipulates you emotionally.
To establish a comparison, let’s talk about TFIOS for a minute. That is a book about cancer, and someone dies of cancer in the end. From the start, we are led to believe that Hazel is the one who will die. This is not implied, it’s actually stated that Augustus is in remission and is cancer-free at the moment. So when it’s revealed that this is not the case and he’s the one who dies at the end, it was a twist – and a manipulation.
This is a book about suicide, and then someone commits suicide at the end. However, Finch was presented from the beginning as being the one most likely to do it, and he’s the one who actually goes through with it. I felt no manipulation here.
Comment 2: the depiction of bipolar disorder is unrealistic.
Bipolar disorder is not the same for everyone. Yes, it needs to fit within certain parameters to be diagnosed as such, but inside those parameters it can vary wildly. So just because you heard about it, have it, or know someone who has it, does not make you an absolute expert on it. Yes, we are all the same, and yet we are also unique. Our DNA, our environment, our experiences all shape us differently as we grow, and discarding so easily someone’s description of the disorder just because it doesn’t fit in with what you know is, to me, both lazy and disrespectful.
I hope this book inspires you to do some research and get a deeper knowledge and understanding of mental illness, which in many cases does go unnoticed for long periods of time, for whatever reason – neglect or denial being the main ones.
I hope you choose empathy.
I hope you choose kindness.
I hope you choose life.
3 hearts out of 5.