So, here I am, more than a month after finishing this novel, trying to write a review. Sigh. First of all, I enjoyed reading this YA outing, as much as you can enjoy a novel where one of the main characters is bipolar but doesn’t seem to fully understand what that means. It’s the story of two very different teenagers, trying to survive high school but for very different reasons. Finch is the classic loner, obsessed with death, smart but unable to fully follow the rules of school and who sometime in the last year suffered a mental breakdown that caused him to disappear from school altogether. He talks now about the need to stay “awake.” Violet seems to have everything going for her—she’s popular, smart, but counting the days until she can leave her small Indiana town for college. She is still grieving over the recent death of her older sister.
The two teens meet on the ledge of the school’s bell tower. Finch is there, not to throw himself off, but more to contemplate the idea of death and thus, to feel more alive and awake. It is Violet whose motivations are a bit murkier. Though Finch is the one who keeps Violet from going over the edge, he helps to make it seem like the situation is in reverse—thus, maintaining her reputation and his. It’s the question that Finch asks Violet while they’re up in the bell tower, “Do you think there’s such a thing as a perfect day?” that marks the start of their relationship.
Not long after, the two teens team up for a class project—to discover and document as many of the “natural wonders” of Indiana as they can—and these adventures, my favorite parts of the book, draw them closer together but also reveal differences that may be insurmountable. I have a soft spot in my heart for YA books that alternate viewpoints and Jennifer Niven works to put us in the shoes (and the minds) of both characters. Though I could see where this one was headed early on, it didn’t make the journey any less worthwhile or moving.