There was a lot of hype surrounding this book, and for the most part, I'd say it's well deserved. There were few things I disliked, but overall, I thought it was a powerful story, that brought some important issues to light...
This book alternates perspectives in from Theodore Finch and Violet Markey, both in first POV.
So, the name Theodore Finch may have grown on me. I loved Finch. He was fun-loving and did whatever he wanted for most of the book. In other words, a total bad ass. Jennifer Niven did a great job making his thoughts and feelings relatable to her readers. He was going through some dark, serious issues, and I still felt like I could understand him (even if I may not be able to).
I am broken. I am a fraud. I am impossible to love.
There were times when he seemed fake, and I don't mean the lies or different personas he took on throughout the story. I mean his character and personality traits. The things he did and the way he talked was completely unrealistic.
She is oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. The same elements that are inside the rest of us, but I can’t help thinking she’s more than that and she’s got other elements going on that no one’s ever heard of, ones that make her stand apart from everybody else.
And then, we have Violet Markey. I didn't care for Violet. I thought she was annoying and kind of bitchy in the beginning. In my opinion, she was a weak character pretending to be strong. She took advantage of the fact that her sister was dead for school assignments and deadlines. Her rudeness to Finch was inexcusable. And why was she wearing her sister's glasses? There are so many better items that she could have chosen to remind her of Eleanor than glasses that she can't even see through properly.
Violet did get better about halfway through the book, but I just didn't connect with her emotionally.
Another case of insta-love. I don't like insta-love. Finch was bordering on stalker in the beginning of the book. All it took for him to fall in love was a smile from Violet. Just one smile. I wish I could make guys fall head over heels in love with me when I smiled at them... Violet started falling for him when she noticed that he was handsome and felt some sort of "spark" or whatever. There was no build-up in the relationship.
I did like the message behind this book. I am fortunate enough not to have any mental illnesses, so I'm not sure how accurate the portrayal of mental illness is. But I can at least appreciate the effort. I think Jennifer Niven sent a powerful, important message. People cannot be labeled or defined by the problems they have to overcome. There's so much more to a person's life than their hardships.
Labels like "bipolar" say This is why you are the way you are. This is who you are. They explain people away as illnesses.
I may or may not have shed a few tears. And my dad may have walked into the room and given me a strange look while I was reading.
Although portions of this book was unrealistic, at least the writing was pretty.
Parallels to the Fault in Our Stars:
There were too many similarities between these two books.
- Hazel and Violet - names as colors. Why? Are we trying to start a new trend?
- Augustus Waters and Theodore Finch - both fancy sounding names. Definitely not names from this century.
- Central theme - death/illness
- Virginia Woolf's Waves and Imperial Affliction
- There's one more really big thing, but I can't give it away without spoilers. If you've read both of them, you know what it is.
I didn't even know who Virginia Woolf was before reading this, and I definitely don't know anyone who can sprout off random quotes by her. Normal people don't quote dead poets/writers in daily conversations.
I did like the theme of wanderlust, as I am a fellow traveler myself. Who knows? I may just end up applying Finch's rules for wandering to my own wanders in the near future. Why couldn't my teachers give me a fun projects like that in high school?
Overall, I did enjoy reading this book. It took me a little while to get into it, but I did get there. If you like the Fault in Our Stars, you'll probably like this story too.
I'll end this review with one last quote that I thought was particularly beautiful:
The great thing about this life of ours is that you can be someone different to everybody.