I was intrigued by this book for quite some time, I think I heard of it first from Zoella’s Book Club. I ordered it and it sat on my bookshelf for months until my sister took it to read and suddenly my interest piqued again (siblings evoke that lifelong feeling of “I want what you have)”). I will admit it took me some time to read it because my focus dropped during the middle of the book but I really am glad I read it to the end. This is my first book review so I’m going to break it into: summary (no spoilers), design (mild spoilers), and thoughts (spoilers).
The book focuses on two teenagers, Finch and Violet who meet at, what initially seems like, an unlikely place. The chapters vary from perspectives between Violet and Finch as we follow their lives and how they inevitably intertwine. Both characters are intrigued by death; Finch is consumed by thought, while Violet is enveloped by experience. This book looks at their relationships and the progression of that. The book focuses around topics on suicide and death, both are being experienced by teenagers with very different personalities.
The book is well designed with an attractive bold and vibrant blue with, what I have come to realise, are post-it notes placed across the book. The font is well thought out as it is reminiscent of careful handwriting with a marker. The use of blue and yellow is very strong and it makes the cover seem youthful. Before I read it I liked the cover but since reading it I think it was definitely the right choice. In the book Finch covers his walls in post-it notes with words that mean something to him, throughout the book he also paints his room a strong vibrant blue which is reflected on the cover of the book as the blue on the cover is textured like a painted wall. I like that the cover has some symbolism in relation to the story and that it is not a mundane, tell-all cover either. It looks at the progression of the plot and the progression of Finch which is summarised on the cover through graphic design.
I enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to watching it when it comes to cinema but I wasn’t entirely enthralled by it as much as I thought I would be. I think my issue came with Finch – carefree people and I don’t gel purely because I am so rigid in life. I find it difficult to imagine someone who has no ties whether that is to their family or their education or life in general. Finch was, in a sense, carefree except for the fact he was consumed by death. He wanted to feel it and research it until he could quote it in a moment. He was interesting for that fact, most of us ignore death. We experience it, then quickly get back to the grind. Finch, however, looked at death as a welcomed end but Violet kept him going.
Violet, the other main character, lost her sister in a car accident while on the way from a party and suffers from PTSD due to it. She is terrified to get into a car, she doesn’t have the motivation to commit to school, and she has an aversion to her old gang of friends.
Violet meets Finch in the Bell Tower where they are both there to experience the moments before death. Finch ends up saving Violet but because he is labelled as the ‘freak’ everyone assumes Violet saved him. Their relationship forms and he becomes obsessed with her. I enjoyed their relationship more at the end of the book rather than the start where he was chasing her. I felt she looked at him with caution but she was utterly intrigued. I assume she had spent her life, before meeting him, thinking he was Freak Finch. She seemed cautious to love him or to even entertain him but he grew on her. I really liked Violet as a character, she was hardworking, studious, creative but was really hurt by losing her sister (as anyone would be). She was interesting because she had everything going for her; she was going to NYU, she set up her own website, she was safe and secure. Then everything changed and she was left with a shell of a person rather than the original Violet.
Finch on the other hand had a very tough life with an abusive dad who left him for another essentially more “complete” family. His mother was there but near to vacant. He struggled with his mental health (maybe in another sense of it he didn’t struggle and it actually consumed him). The thing is I find these stories a dime a dozen, good girl finds bad boy and they fall in love but there was something different with ATBP. Yes, Violet tried to change him near the end but the theme of suicide and death was so strong that it wasn’t a typical good girl/bad boy scenario. I don’t think I read such topics when I was a teen. I read about death but never suicide. I never read a potentially suicidal dialogue such as Finch’s. ATBP approached such a heavy topic but Niven did so with respect. She wrote about the gritty, real side of mental health, not the glamourised version which is often at the root of YA novels.
ATBP is a great book and maybe my issues were that I am simply too old for it. That being said I would recommend it, especially to a younger demographic. Mental health needs to be an open topic and books like this, who introduce us to the topic as a teen, utterly aid in the conversation being ignited around mental health.
“This is my secret—that any moment I might fly away” – Finch