Finch is out of school for a week. People talk about him (Principal Wertz shut down the Bartlett Dirt), and on Wednesday, someone asks Violet if she should be on “suicide watch” for her boyfriend. The next day, Violet seeks out Charlie and asks about Finch. Charlie says that this is just what Finch does. Brenda compliments Violet’s glasses, and Violet says that they were Eleanor’s. Finch is at school on Friday morning, but now he’s wearing a ratty knit cap and fingerless gloves. He looks like “Slacker Finch,” and he ignores Violet.
Suicide is still a joke at Bartlett High—the novel implies that Violet’s classmate asks her about “suicide watch” as a joke, not because this person is actually concerned. Indeed, the fact that Charlie insists that Finch is liable to disappear without warning makes it clear that not even his friends are concerned about him—even though his narration shows readers that people should be concerned. He’s struggling, and Violet is seemingly the only person who’s aware of that.
The fire alarm goes off at the beginning of third period. As Violet follows everyone outside, Finch comes up behind her, tells her to meet him in the student parking lot, and walks away. Violet races after him and feels free. No one is chasing them or yelling at them. When they get to the trees near the river, Finch tells Violet to be quiet—the first one to make a noise has to streak back to school. He leads her down the embankment and points to a huge bird, explaining that it’s a hooded crane. It’s native to Asia, but Finch says it isn’t lost—it’s wandering.
Finch shows Violet that it can be freeing to be rebellious and spontaneous. Violet may never have thought to skip out on a fire drill, but thanks to Finch, she gets to see a sight that the novel suggests is truly spectacular. As Finch insists that the bird is “wandering,” moreover, he reminds Violet that the life is worth living because there’s so much to see and experience.
Finch steps on a twig and curses. Violet laughs and reminds him that he has to streak back to school now. Sighing, Finch strips totally naked. Violet is shocked; she’s never seen a boy naked, and she didn’t think he’d actually do it. He says that this would be more fun if Violet was naked too, and then he dives into the river. Violet sits on the bank and watches him, and then she pulls out their notebook to write. Finch swims back toward her. When she asks why he was gone, he says he was remodeling. He also says that unfortunately, Finch’s dad is back in town.
Violet pulls out the notebook of her own volition, which implies that she’s starting to heal and feel a bit more in control of her life. By choosing to write, she’s reconnecting with an aspect of her identity that she thought she lost. When Finch refers to what he did last week as “remodeling,” it’s a way for him to take control of the narrative. Remodeling won’t make Violet suspicious or concerned, whereas hearing that he suddenly found his red room suffocating might.
The fire alarm isn’t going off anymore, but Violet isn’t worried about being counted absent. Finch gets out of the river, dresses, and starts to tell Violet what they should do next. But then, Roamer, Ryan, and another boy come down the embankment. Ryan says that they came to check on Violet, but Roamer implies that Violet and Finch have been having sex. Roamer and Finch exchange insults, and then Roamer jumps Finch. They roll into the water. At first, Finch doesn’t fight back—but then he grabs Roamer and holds his head underwater. Violet tells Finch to let Roamer go as Ryan pulls on Finch’s collar. Finally, Finch drops Roamer and stalks up the hill.
Violet is still part of the popular crowd, which seems to be why the boys came down to check on her. But in reality, Violet doesn’t feel like she fits in with the popular anymore—she feels more comfortable with Finch. Finch and Roamer’s fight, though, suggests that changing her identity in this way might not be easy. Roamer and Finch have history that means their relationship is adversarial, and the way Roamer treats Finch also shows that the popular crowd punishes difference.
Figuring she’s already in trouble for skipping class, Violet heads across town to Finch’s house. Kate answers the door and says she’s sure Finch is around somewhere. She lets Violet go upstairs to Finch’s room. Violet knocks, but no one answers. The door is locked. She considers picking it but decides Finch would let her in if he wanted to see her. Back downstairs, Kate seems unconcerned that Finch is gone. She thinks he might be running, which he does “about fifteen times a day.” She says it’s impossible to tell what Finch is going to do.
Violet realizes that the only way to keep Finch’s trust is to treat him with compassion and respect. So, even though she’s worried about him, it’s more important to her at this point to respect his privacy. Kate’s lack of concern again shows that Finch doesn’t have much support at home. His family members just think of him as being unpredictable and not worth wondering about. But readers know that Finch runs to escape the negative thoughts in his head, so his family is missing out on a lot of important information by not being curious.