Author: Jennifer Niven Published: January 6th 2015 by Knopf
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—six stories above the ground—it’s unclear who saves whom. For fans of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park, this is an 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.
I have to be honest, This book took me longer to read than the few I read before it. But I’m glad I persevered, very glad. This book gave a true glimpse into depression, the horribly crippling side effect of Bipolar Disorder. And by the time I finished, I had really enjoyed it.
The novel starts out a little differently, with the two protagonists meeting in the clock tower of their school, contemplating suicide. After this unusual, and uncomfortable beginning, the two take a while to become friends, and eventually more, and this was the part of the book I found a little slow. But as I mentioned, I’m glad I pushed through, because as the two become closer, Violet gets more of a look into Finch’s mind while he begins to slowly fall apart. But I’ll get to Finch later, because for me, he made this book.
Violet Markey has her own demons that she is dealing with. Almost a year ago, her older sister died in a car accident while driving them home from a party. She used to be in with the popular kids, and now she just wants to keep her head down and get to graduation. But then she meets Finch. Finch, over time, pulls violet out of her funk, out of her shell and out into the world. Once again, Violet slowly starts to be excited about things again, and starts to write again, and even starts to drive again. And she, of course, falls in love with Theodore Finch. The thing I love most about Violet is her love of writing, which she has lost, but starts to find again throughout the novel. She used to work on a website with her sister, eleanorandviolet.com, and she later starts up a new project, an online magazine she names Germ, both of which exist and you can visit online. I adore when authors create extra content and avenues for their fans to explore the book.
Theodore Finch is troubled. He contemplates death, he wanders aimlessly, and he doesn’t really care what people think. Except that he does. He has periods of ‘the Asleep’ – where he can not function, or perform normal day to day tasks, while depression is not spoken about obviously or openly in the book as much as suicide, it is clear that this is what Finch is suffering from. He likely has Bipolar Disorder, suffering his manic periods alongside mania with his excitement about being with Violet, and the uphoria he feels when they are together. The thing about Finch that drew me in – as much as he may just be another quirky, not-fitting-in, rebellious teenage boy – is that I understand him. I have Bipolar Disorder and have struggled, predominately when I was a teenager, with depression and with thoughts of suicide. The way Niven voices Finch, the way he talks about how it feels, even the way Violet observes his behaviour, is how it is when you just don’t fit in the world situation you are living in. When you don’t fit in your body, you don’t fit in the world, you don’t fit anywhere and it’s completely debilitating.
Jennifer Niven beautifully captures the tragic, overbearing, often unnoticed struggle of depression and suicide, for those struggling to avoid it and those struggling to pick up the pieces upon being left behind. I genuinely recommend this book to all ages, as mental illness can strike at any stage in life, and it should not be taboo, we should be able to talk about it, not have to keep it inside.
It’s important to reach out for help if you think you might be suffering from depression, sometimes this is the hardest step to recovery. If you don’t feel like you can talk to anyone in your life, sometimes an anonymous ear to listen can go a long way, contacting a counselling service can save a life. Check out Beyond Blue for more information in battling depression, or suicidal thoughts.