Finch gets in Little Bastard and drives 25 miles to Ohio, where a group called Life Is Life meets. It’s a group for teens who are thinking about or have attempted suicide. Finch is exhausted; trying to act normal around Violet is difficult. He doesn’t want her to see, so he’s told her he’s sick and doesn’t want to infect her. Finch joins the other Life Is Life members around a huge table with water and cookies. The counselor, Demetrius, welcomes newcomers. A girl tries to talk seductively to Finch, but Finch turns her away—he’s not here to make friends.
Finch feels like he has to “act normal” around Violet because of the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Admitting he’s struggling might mean opening himself up to getting a diagnosis—something that Finch is afraid of. This also suggests that Finch doesn’t trust that people are still going to love him or want to be around him if he admits what he’s actually feeling.
Finch already wishes he hadn’t come. He’s certain that the brand of cookies on offer contains animal bone char. He focuses on Demetrius, who offers facts about suicide and teenagers. Everyone introduces themselves and shares any mental health diagnoses and whether they’ve tried to kill themselves. They have to end by saying what’s keeping them going. Finch notices that many kids seem dull and vacant, like they’re on drugs. He introduces himself as Josh Raymond, admits he “halfheartedly” tried to take sleeping pills, and says that the Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect is keeping him going.
The fact that Finch is talking about bone char in the cookies ties back to his earlier thoughts about the cardinal—dead animals seem to remind Finch of himself and his mental illness. As Finch listens to the other kids introduce themselves, it’s telling that he focuses on them seeming dull and vacant because they’re on medications. This likely gives Finch more reason to not want a diagnosis—that could mean being prescribed psychiatric drugs, and he seems to look down on these kids who are taking medications to manage their mental illnesses.
A bundled up young woman races in. Demetrius assures her it’s no problem that she’s late as she sits and pulls off her hat and mittens. It’s Amanda Monk. Demetrius calls her Rachel and asks her to introduce herself. She says she’s bulimic and has tried to kill herself twice with pills. After everyone has introduced themselves, Finch thinks that he’s “the only one who hasn’t tried to really and truly kill himself.” This makes him think that when he does try again, he’s not going to mess up.
It's a major revelation that Amanda is at this Life Is Life meeting and seems to be a regular attendee (since Demetrius recognizes her). This shows Finch that he’s not alone in struggling with mental illness and even suicidal thoughts—it’s something that can affect anyone. But Finch also vows to not mess up when he tries again to kill himself, and as he says this, implying that he is going to make another suicide attempt.
Finch finds the meeting heartbreaking. He wants to “let the Long Drop come.” There’s nothing wrong with these kids except that their brains are different. Finch wants to get away from them—and from all the teens who did successfully kill themselves. He wants to escape the stigma and the labels. The other kids talk about their diagnoses like they’re the only things that define them—Finch is the only kid who’s just himself. One girl shares that when her sister died of leukemia, people sent flowers. But when she almost died from cutting her wrists, nobody cared at all.
The way that Finch talks about the other kids suggests that he sees himself as fundamentally different from them—and as superior, since he’s “just himself.” But Finch also ignores the fact that by thinking this, he’s perpetuating the stigma surrounding mental health. If there wasn’t so much stigma, people would be more likely to sympathize with these kids, and their illnesses would be treated the same as a physical illness like leukemia.
Finch thinks of Eleanor as the discussion turns to the different medications people are on. He stops listening after one boy says that he’s glad to be alive, but he feels like all the things that made him who he is are gone. After the meeting, Demetrius asks Finch what he thought. Finch says nice things and then chases Amanda to the parking lot. By her car, he promises not to tell anyone. He points out that she can always just tell people he’s a “freak”—they’ll think he’s making stuff up.
Again, this meeting doesn’t do much for Finch except convince him that asking for help is silly and misguided. Asking for help, he thinks, will make him less himself, force him to seek a diagnosis, and force him to take medication that will make him even less of himself. But on the plus side, seeing Amanda at the meeting again shows Finch that he’s not alone—even if he sometimes feels like he is.
Finch asks if Amanda still thinks about killing herself. Amanda admits she does and asks if Finch was really going to jump off the belltower. When he gives a noncommittal answer, she asks if he gets tired of people talking about him. Finch points out that Amanda is one of the people who gossips about him, which makes her go quiet. She says that gossiping about other people reminds her that she has control. As she gets in the car, she tells Finch that now he knows he’s “not the only freak.”
Though Finch and Amanda’s conversation is short and adversarial, it nevertheless shows both of them that they’re not alone. It also helps both of them see that the other person has reasons for behaving the way they do. While Finch acts out and behaves impulsively to feel in control and stay “awake,” Amanda gossips about her classmates.