By lunchtime, everyone knows that Violet saved Finch from jumping off the belltower. Finch heads for class and follows a group of girls discussing him, unaware that he’s behind them. They talk about him like he’s “tragic and dangerous,” which Finch enjoys. He feels “not just awake, but Awake.” He takes his seat in U.S. Geography with Mr. Black. Though Finch has lived in Indiana all his life, it’s news to him when Mr. Black says that they all live about 11 miles away from the highest point in the state, Hoosier Hill. As Mr. Black drones on, Finch raises his hand. He wonders if things would look different from Hoosier Hill, 1,257 feet up.
The fact that Finch enjoys the way these girls are talking about him suggests that he gets a kick out of being unpredictable. And when he doesn’t fully define what it means to feel “Awake” as opposed to just “awake,” it reminds readers that Finch doesn’t have the words to describe how he feels. Readers can infer that Finch means that keeping others on their toes makes him feel more alive and powerful, but it’s hard to tell for sure.
Mr. Black finally calls on Finch, and Finch suggests they take a field trip to see Hoosier Hill before they graduate. Annoyed, Mr. Black continues on. He’s interrupted when Violet comes to class late and accidentally drops all of her books. Everyone laughs, and Violet looks ready to die or cry. Finch knows this feeling well, so he knocks a book to the floor and then purposefully tips his chair over and sends his other books flying when he reaches to get it. This successfully distracts the class. Finch smiles at Violet, and she smiles back genuinely.
Even though Finch made it seem like he enjoys the attention he receives for his antics in earlier passages, here he suggests that that’s only a front. If he knows well what it’s like to feel “ready to die or cry,” this suggests he experiences these emotions often. His antics, then, start to seem like a way to control the kind of attention he receives. If he shocks people on purpose, he might feel less embarrassed and ashamed.
Mr. Black glares at the class and then introduces a project: the students must report on two or three “wonders of Indiana.” They can choose any sites, but they have to document their visits to these places and explain why these sites make them “proud to be a Hoosier.” Finch raises his hand again and asks if they get to choose their partners—he wants to work with Violet. Violet blushes and asks if she could do something else, since she’s “not ready.” Mr. Black refuses her request and says it’s “time to get back on the camel.” She’s clearly upset. Finch remembers that Violet and her sister were in an accident last year. The sister didn’t survive.
The way that Mr. Black describes the “wonders of Indiana” and makes this project about being proud to live in Indiana suggests that he’s trying to get his students to understand that there’s a lot to live for—there’s beauty all around, if one is willing to look for it. This is, perhaps, why he denies Violet’s request—indeed, Violet can’t sit back and do nothing forever. Finch, though, begins to develop some empathy for Violet when he remembers that her sister recently died.
When class ends, Roamer—surrounded by Amanda and Ryan—blocks Finch’s way. He accuses Finch of looking at him (they’ve been “sworn enemies” since middle school). Roamer knocks Finch’s books out of his hands, and Finch feels his anger build. He felt this way last year when he hurled the desk into the chalkboard. Roamer walks past, tells Finch to pick up the books, and slams his shoulder into Finch’s chest. Finch wants to rip Roamer’s heart out, but instead he counts to 60 and gives Mr. Black a nod to show him that everything is under control. Finch has promised himself that this year will be different: he’s going to “stay awake and here” and not just be “semi-here.”
Staying “awake and here” as opposed to just “semi-here” again suggests that being “awake” is Finch’s way of describing periods between depressive episodes. And Finch implies that maintaining control over his emotions is essential to staying “awake.” This means that he can’t let Roamer’s bullying get to him, though Finch’s response to Roamer suggests that this is extremely difficult. Sometimes, Finch gets to the point that he loses control, as when he threw the desk into the chalkboard.
Later, out in the parking lot, Finch and his friend Brenda listen to Charlie talk about sex. Charlie spent his winter break working at the movie theater, where he let “hot” girls sneak in for free. Most of them were then willing to have sex with him. Charlie asks where Finch has been, and Finch replies that he went on a road trip since he didn’t feel like coming to school. He can’t explain “the Asleep” to his friends, but fortunately, Charlie and Brenda don’t usually ask for explanations. If he disappears, that’s just what he does. Charlie nods and says Finch needs to have sex. Finch usually has bad luck with women, since he goes for “bitchy ones” or “crazy ones.” He spots Violet across the parking lot and feels himself falling for her.
Comparing how Charlie and Finch spent their winter breaks shows just how distanced Finch is from his friends and classmates. While Charlie knows he has a willing audience to hear about his sexual exploits, Finch writes off his friends as being incapable of understanding what “the Asleep” is like for him. Finch also makes it clear that he’s taught his friends to think of his disappearances as normal. This means that Finch’s friends might not think to worry if, for instance, Finch’s mental health worsened. This adds to the impression that Finch doesn’t get the support he needs.
When Finch get home, Finch’s mom is defrosting a casserole while she talks on the phone. Finch’s older sister, Kate, grabs keys and heads out the door. Finch has an eight-year-old sister too, Decca—they all know “she was a mistake,” but Finch think that he’s the actual mistake in the family. He heads upstairs, puts on a record without looking at it, and puts a cigarette in his mouth. But then he remembers that he’s trying out being an 80s kid, and this version of Finch doesn’t smoke. Annoyed with his current persona, Finch chews on his cigarette instead of lighting it and plays along on his guitar.
This passage gives the impression that Finch’s family isn’t particularly close-knit or at home much, as they all seem busy and preoccupied with their own lives. As Finch describes his family and who’s the “mistake” of his siblings, he shows that he defines a “mistake” differently than perhaps Decca and Kate do. While his sisters think of Decca as being a mistake because she wasn’t planned, Finch suggests that he’s the real mistake, perhaps because of how he views his mental health issues.
Finch puts his guitar down and opens up his computer. He types into a document about how he almost killed himself today by jumping off the belltower at school, and about other men who have committed suicide by jumping. Then, he turns to the internet and finds that only 5-10 percent of suicides are committed by jumping. Finch returns to his document and writes that he didn’t jump because it would’ve been too messy, public, and crowded.
Finch’s research on suicide drives home for readers that this is a pressing concern for him. Thinking through ways to kill himself occupies a lot of his time and brainpower—but it seems like Finch is concerned with the spectacle of his death as much as anything else. Writing about it is a way for Finch to make sense of his suicidal thoughts and attempt to process them.
Then, Finch gets onto Facebook and finds Amanda Monk’s page. He searches her friend list for Violet and finds Violet Markey. Violet’s page is only visible to her friends, so Finch searches her name on Google, desperate for more information. He finds EleanorandViolet.com and a news article about the accident that killed Eleanor. Then, he decides to make a Facebook account and send Violet a friend request. This, he thinks, will make himself look normal to her. After sending the request, Finch plays guitar, does homework, and heads downstairs for dinner.
Finch doesn’t think of himself as normal in any sense of the word—but he also seems to think that Violet doesn’t necessarily know that, so he can choose to behave in ways that make him seem normal. This quest for normalcy, though, also suggests that Finch isn’t content with who he is right now—in his mind, he isn’t good enough.
Finch’s family has been eating dinner together since the divorce last year. Finch enjoys it because, though he doesn’t really like eating, he likes being able to “turn [his] brain off.” Finch’s mom asks Decca what she learned today. Decca tells the table about how a boy at school glued his hands to the desk, and his skin came off when they finally freed him. She says that the boy deserved it. Finch’s mom says Decca’s name in a disapproving tone, but this is as much as she ever does as a parent. Finch knows she’s still upset about the divorce; Finch’s dad left her for a younger woman named Rosemarie. Since then, Finch has tried to be pleasant and unobtrusive, which is why he pretends to go to school when he’s in “the Asleep.”
As the conversation around the dinner table unfolds, it’s clear that Finch’s family isn’t particularly involved in his life. His mom, for instance, doesn’t seem to do much to discipline or guide her children—halfheartedly reprimanding Decca for saying something mean, Finch suggests, is the bare minimum a parent should do. And Finch also suggests that he feels an immense amount of pressure to appear normal to his family and not make waves—they don’t seem to know what’s going on when Finch enters “the Asleep.” He cares about them, and he doesn’t want to make their struggles even worse.
Finch’s mom asks how Finch’s day was, and Finch says it was good. He doesn’t eat—eating, like sleeping, is a waste of time. He thinks about a Chinese man who died when he stayed awake for 11 days in a row. Finch notices his mom is looking at him funny and gives her a slightly more involved answer about his day. After dinner, his mom asks Decca if it’s nice to have Finch back. Finch feels terrible: his mom thinks he was in school for the last five weeks, but he missed a lot of family dinners during that time.
Again, Finch shows that he’s very interested in the many ways people can die. And when it comes to dying due to lack of sleep, Finch also seems to suggest that this wouldn’t be totally out of the question for him. Insomnia and a lack of appetite seem to be symptoms of Finch’s illness when he’s in his “awake” periods, which could suggest that he’s experiencing manic episodes (periods of heightened mood and energy) when he’s not “asleep.” It’s telling that Finch feels so guilty when his mom talks about “having him back.” He doesn’t want his family to worry, so he’s uncomfortable with the fact that his mom missed him.
That night, Finch checks Facebook and finds that Violet accepted his friend request. He’s elated. He scrolls through her pictures and finds one of her with Eleanor. Finch realizes that the glasses Violet was wearing today were Eleanor’s. Suddenly, Violet messages Finch, accusing him of “ambushing” her. Finch says that their “mountain is waiting.” He insists that it’s important to see Indiana, appreciate the state’s sights, and make this project mean something. Violet doesn’t respond, but Finch imagines her smiling. He picks up his guitar and starts to play. He’s grateful to be awake—he’d miss this otherwise.
As Finch realizes that Violet’s glasses are actually Eleanor’s, he gains important insight into how Violet is handling her grief. In short, she’s not handling it well—Violet’s narration in the previous chapter confirmed that. When Finch is grateful to be awake for this moment, it suggests that he’s starting to take his own advice. It’s worth it, he’s realizing, to stay alive—and connecting with someone else can be fulfilling.