Reviewed for this blog by Geri, Ridgefield Library
This book came out waaaay back in January; will the Printz committee even remember to consider it? I hope so. It’s not often you are introduced to your main characters while both are on a bell tower, contemplating suicide. But it’s also not often that a book captures the many angles of depression.
Last spring, Violet survived the car accident that killed her sister. She has been barely getting by, and now, on the first day of the new term, she has climbed the bell tower at school and is thinking of throwing herself off. Theodore Finch has been known as Freak for the past four years. He has very few friends, seems to reinvent himself every couple of months, and has a habit of disappearing for days at a time. Finch finds himself next to Violet on top of the bell tower and manages to talk her down. Saving Violet seems to have given Finch a new lease on life. He woos her, gets assigned to be her partner for a class project, and slowly brings Violet back to life. But this doesn’t mean his own demons have been defeated.
Both Violet and Finch alternate ( by chapters) telling their story. Finch is by turns warm, relatable, and sympathetic and then suddenly, manic. Violet is sharp and tightly wound, only becoming loose when she’s with Finch. Although very bad things happen, the story is not without humor and this lightens the mood from time to time. Niven deftly portrays all the nuances of depression while simultaneously crafting a romance and a school-story-inflected coming of age tale. She’s a very good writer. This is an emotional but never sentimental heart-wrenching book which is up for the Guardian’s Children’s Book Prize and is also, I hope, worthy of some Printz love.