NOTE: Plot spoilers may be included in my thoughts about the book – it was hard to leave them out this time.
This was a heavy book to read. The topic of death, including what happens to those people left behind, was at the core of this book. Though I honestly thought Violet Markey (VM) deserved more than Theodore Finch (TF), his presence eventually helped her in the end.
"You can't do this to me. You were the one who lectured me about living. You were the one who said I had to get out and see what was right in front of me and make the most of it and not wish my time away and find my mountain because my mountain was waiting, and all that adds up to life." – VM
I had a tough time finishing this book. A few pages in and I was second guessing my decision to choose this book, primarily because of TF. I did not like how intrusive he became with VM's life at the start. Though, on hindsight, it may exactly be what VM needed to get out of the rut she was in. I also have issues about promiscuity in young adult novels. It may come with my age but I do not like seeing sex being thrown in the mix, especially if I do not feel that it really furthers the narrative (same concern with drugs, alcohol and cigarettes).
But, all things considered, it was a worthwhile read especially if you have the appetite for an emotional journey with VM. She is a girl that showed a lot of strength in this story – broken, in love, broken and then changed.
The book also offers insight on how a guy with mental health concerns may act. I knew throughout the book that TF was a broken man but I did not know its extent. And, for VM who probably did not see everything (of course readers have the privilege of also seeing things from TF's point of view), TF was just a man with issues – same with everybody else.
You really could not fault VM that much because, on his best, TF was a guy who seems to always know what to say:
"I learned that there is good in this world, if you look hard enough for it. I learned that not everyone is disappointing, including me, and that a 1,257 foot bump in the ground can feel higher than a bell tower if you're standing next to the right person." – TF
"It's not your fault and sorry wastes time. You have to live your life like you'll never be sorry. It is easier to just do the right thing from the start so there's nothing to apologize for." – TF
"The problem with people is they forget that most of the time it's the small things that count." – TF
But the one of the key messages of the book for me was mentioned by the resident school psychiatrist Mr. Embry in response to the survivor's guilt being felt by VM:
"We can always do more. It is a tough question to answer, and, ultimately, a pointless one to ask. xxx We can't always see what others don't want us to. Especially when they go great lengths to hide it." – Mr. Embry
Mental and emotional illness is hard to diagnose because you could not really go inside a person's head to fully understand what he or she is going through, including the fear of speaking up about it.
I would just end this post with how the author ended her author's note:
If you think something is wrong, speak up.
You are not alone.
It is not your fault.
Help is out there.
And then let me add: the world is a beautiful place.