- Author: Jennifer Niven
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
- Pub date: Will be published 1/6/15
- Intended for: Ages 14 +
- Perfect for: Anyone looking for a well written emotional book.
First of all, big thanks goes out to my lovely sister-in-law for giving me this galley. Thank you for supplying me with such great reading material!!
I didn’t know what to expect with this book because I avoided reading the back cover copy on the galley. I decided to read the book because I really like the cover and I liked the title. It looks like a book I would like. And it is.
The story is told in two voices:
Violet—a popular sixteen-year-old girl who has recently lost her older sister to a car accident (in which Violet was a passenger, and came out of it unscathed) and feels lost with grief. She counts down the days until the end of school, when she can get out of there and not deal with people and learning and, well, life.
Finch—a sixteen-year-old “Freak” according to his classmates. He’s a unique soul who bounces between loving every minute of life and dealing with crippling depression. He counts the number of days he is “awake” after coming out of a bout of depression.
We begin the book with them both standing on the ledge of the bell tower at their school, contemplating suicide. Finch talks Violet down off the ledge, although reports of who saves who gets turned around by the high school masses and Violet is deemed a hero for saving Finch’s life. But Finch doesn’t seem to mind that—he’s just interested in this girl whose life he just saved and wants to get to know her.
The two get paired up for a class project that takes them on adventures throughout the state of Indiana.
Throughout the story, Finch teaches Violet how to open up and embrace living all the while dealing with the impending blackness he knows will envelope him again. He fights such a good fight by staying upbeat (at least on the outside) in the face of adversity, but the constant taunting by fellow classmates wears on him. And the fact that his dad left his family and started a brand new one doesn’t help either (nor does the fact that Finch’s dad is physically abusive to him). And to top it off, Finch’s mom and sisters just don’t “get” his depression. They push it aside as him being moody.
While Finch battles his inner demons, he is also falling in love with Violet (and she with him) and their building relationship is told beautifully and is thankfully never rushed. They learn to trust each other and their genuine affection for each other comes across so well on the page.
While Violet’s story is told well, it’s Finch’s voice that really stands out. There is such a sense of urgency in Finch’s words that you can’t help but be propelled forward into the story. You can feel his pain. You can feel the black cloud he is trying to break out from under. You can feel his highest highs and his lowest lows.
I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but I will say that it’s a very emotional read, but so compelling that I honestly could not stop reading this book.
Niven does a beautiful job giving a voice to those who are contemplating suicide. As she writes in her Author’s Note, the stigma of suicide and mental illness is terrible and those who think about suicide, as well as those left behind after a loved one has committed suicide, are often ostracized. This book helps give sufferers and survivors a voice and helps to enlighten readers on how someone with a mental illness may feel.