genre: young adult contemporary
Theodore Finch is awake now. But he's not always. Sometimes he's sunk into a stagnant darkness but when our story begins, he's at the top of a bell tower, contemplating the jump. When he is joined on the bell tower ledge by Violet, a relationship begins that will change both of them in profound ways. Violets own deep loss connects in something very alive in Finch and soon they are wandering around the state of Indiana together for a high school project, finding beauty and sorting through the demons whose tendrils wrap tight around both their hearts.
When I offered up this book to my book club, one of the girls asked if I knew it was about suicide? Did we want to read about suicide? I know that suicide is not a pretty subject but it is nonetheless a reality that touches nearly everyone and yes, I guess sometimes I do want to read about it. A very beloved friend of mine committed suicide just after high school and the guilt and pain that naturally comes afterwards for those left behind is very real - if we DON'T write books and have conversations about suicide and, just as importantly, mental illness, then we are perpetuating the stigma around this vast problem.
Bullying. Literature. Writing. Mourning. Abuse. Not all super uplifting subjects, I know, but Finch is so remarkable, his and Violet's story is so filled with meaning that it hits you right in the heart. I appreciate that without being preachy, it's clear how important it is to have help and support when you go through trauma or are experiencing mental illness. The writing is harsh and painful when it needs to be and at other times so poignant it's a different kind of painful. There were tears, yes. It hurts to read about a boy in the thick of an illness that shapes the way his synapses fire and dictates how much of himself is able to interact with the world. I love Finch. I love his love of wandering that we share. I love Violet too, for what she learns and how she grows. For all its heartache, I love that this tale was told.
Warning: strong language and teen sex (not graphic)