No other book has ever hit so close to home.
The funny thing was that I picked this book up during a fly-by at Walmart while I was on my way to search for utility shelves.
I am an avid book lover. As an introvert, I find solace in written works. As a writer, I come to admire the writing of other fellow authors. But never has a book completely ripped me apart inside the way this one did. The cover caught my eye first. Its seemingly innocent pastel colors gives a first impression that it’s another one of those happy-go-lucky novels.
How wrong I was.
The book follows two main characters–Violet Markey and Theodore Finch. Like the typical high school angst of main characters being on the precipice of a new chapter in their lives, these two are about to graduate. And at the heart of this story is the been-there-done-that motif of “troubled-boy-saves-troubled-girl.”
But worn out cliches aside, the reader comes to uncover the layers that make these two teenagers so vividly bright among their respective darkness.
There’s a bittersweet plot (SPOILERS).
Violet’s still recovering from the loss of her older sister Eleanor. It’s something that Violet blames herself for, mostly because she’s suffering from survivor’s guilt. But she’s more than that. Her potential to do something good with her life is teetering on the edge. All she needs is to break through her walls.
Then there’s Finch, who is basically, well, suicidal. Everyday he looks and finds a reason to live, but that spark dwindles as time keeps passing by. Yet he isn’t just the suicidal kid in school. He’s the funny, eccentric, charismatic, thoughtful guy.
The only thing that really balances these two is each other. With each other they are able to live, laugh, and dare I say, love. Sounds totally overdone, right?
Yet author Jennifer Niven manages to engulf the reader through lengthy emotional paragraphs aimed at young adults through millennial slang. The way these two teenagers are feeling is angsty, angering, frustrating, and completely intoxicating.
With every page, I found myself becoming invested in these two teens. I felt myself falling more and more with their stories as individuals but also with their story together.
What a marvelous feeling it must be to find that one person who can give you something to live for. To find that one person who pushes your boundaries, grinds your gears, yet totally gets you because in the end, you’re feeling the same thing–the impending cold emptiness death can offer, but fighting to hold onto that ledge of life.
This book is a breath of fresh air in mainstream publishing.
I want to state that the last few chapters were a bit triggering if you or a loved one ever had suicidal thoughts/attempts. Yet I suppose that’s what I loved most about this book. It was raw and full of emotion other mainstream writers tend to shy away from.
The book wasn’t afraid to go there, and it’s on the heart-wrenching level of John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. Both books made me cry like a baby, but this one left its text resonating inside my heart, kind of like how someone feels when their dog dies and for the first five minutes, you feel numb and totally wrecked.
Then, it’s over and you’re left to start again.
That is what this book felt like. It’ll rip you apart emotionally but also give you the appreciation of life and how beautiful it can be without reservations.
The message is important.
An overarching theme throughout the book is that suicide isn’t something to be degraded, and people aren’t just “a diagnosis”. It isn’t something to make fun of or to dismiss as temporary. It makes me think about how long someone is walking along the edge, ready to jump, yet having something hold them back. Is it selfish to live and be fighting this internal battle or is it selfish to end it and leave pain in your wake?
It makes me think how wonderful life can be if we just let go of all the expectations, all the rules, all of the problems, and just for one perfect day, live.
Isn’t that all anybody wants?