In U.S. Geography on Thursday, Violet’s phone buzzes repeatedly. The Bartlett Dirt just published an article of the top 10 suicidal students in school (Finch is the top of the list). Jordan Gripenwaldt put resources on the front page of the official school paper, but nobody is paying any attention. To distract herself from the articles, Violet asks Ryan about his Indiana project. Amanda is the only other person in class ignoring her phone, and she asks Violet if working with Finch is awful. When Violet says it isn’t, Amanda shrieks that Violet must like Finch.
Drawing attention to Finch’s suicidal thoughts through this article speaks to how callous and cruel some of Violet and Finch’s peers are. They don’t show Finch much compassion—they still treat him like a curiosity instead of someone who needs help. The fact that Amanda is, like Violet, ignoring her phone suggests that there may be more to Amanda than meets the eye. She, perhaps, is also struggling with a mental health issue and doesn’t find the Bartlett Dirt article funny.
Fortunately, the bell rings, and Mr. Black calls the class to attention. Ryan slips Violet a note asking her to the drive-in on Saturday as Mr. Black writes pop quiz questions on the board. Finch saunters into the room five minutes later. Violet thinks that he’s the person who knows her worst secret. Finch apologizes to Mr. Black in his Australian accent, plops a big rock on Violet’s desk, and gives Mr. Black an apple. Roamer mimes hanging himself, and the class finally quiets down. When Violet is done with her quiz, she flips the rock over: it reads “Your turn.”
Violet conceptualizes her suicidality as her “worst secret”—to her, it’s shameful and horrifying. This is perhaps unsurprising, given how Roamer mimes hanging himself in a clear attempt to upset Finch. To many of Violet and Finch’s classmates, suicide seems to be a joke that deserves to be mocked. Violet might fear that she’d receive the same treatment if people knew about her mental health struggles.
When class ends, Finch slips out before Violet can talk to him. Ryan walks Violet to Spanish class and jealously asks if the rock is a thank-you for saving Finch’s life. Violet tells Ryan to not be “that guy,” the one who’s jealous that his ex-girlfriend is doing a project with someone else. Ryan insists they should get back together and smiles. Without thinking, Violet kisses his cheek, surprising both of them.
Though Violet thinks of herself as totally different from the person that Ryan used to date, Ryan doesn’t seem to see things the same way. This suggests that for all her inner turmoil, Violet is successfully acting like everything is normal and convincing people that she’s okay.
At dinner that evening, Violet’s mom asks if she was on the belltower at school last week. Violet chokes on her food. When she’s able to talk again, Violet’s mom explains that a reporter called, and she asks why Violet didn’t tell them. Violet insists people are making a big deal out of it. Violet’s dad wants to know who the boy is that she saved. He and Violet’s mom exchange a look, and Violet knows that now they’re going to expect more of her. Casually, Violet’s mom suggests that they take a spring break trip to New York. The family hasn’t gone on a trip since Eleanor died. Violet says that sounds great, but her parents know she’s lying.
Violet implies that one of the reasons she doesn’t want people to find out that she “saved” Finch is because people are going to think she’s no longer grieving Eleanor. She seems to believe that her parents only suggest the spring break trip after hearing about this because they see this as proof that Violet is improving. In Violet’s mind, however, she’s not actually better yet. She’s still reeling from Eleanor’s death, even as life is beginning to seem more meaningful thanks to Finch.
That night, Violet has her recurring nightmare again: someone comes up behind her and strangles her. She wakes up and reaches for her laptop. “Before,” she would’ve written something. Violet writes a few words and then erases them. Writing without Eleanor here feels like cheating on her—but in a way, living when Eleanor isn’t feels like cheating on Eleanor.
Violet’s guilt and grief make it difficult, if not impossible, for her to feel like she deserves to keep living. At this point, her grief is keeping her from doing the one thing the novel suggests might help her start to recover: writing.
Violet signs into Facebook. Forty minutes ago, just after one a.m., Finch messaged her that the world’s tallest woman and one of the tallest men came from Indiana—what does that say about the state? Violet responds and thinks she should get some sleep, but Finch writes back a few minutes later. They discuss what Finch will do if he never stops growing, and Violet mentions that she’s awake after a nightmare. Finch says he’s awake to keep Violet company and that he’ll meet Violet at her house.
Messaging with Finch on Facebook reminds Violet that there’s more to life than her sorrows. There are silly, perhaps unanswerable questions to think about, like why Indiana seems to produce so many tall people. With this, Violet starts to see that continuing to live is worthwhile. These chats with Finch show her what’s possible if she’s willing to put aside her grief and accept help and connection.