It’s Saturday night. Amanda invited Violet to a sleepover, promising it’d just be them and a handful of friends. Since the accident, Violet has been drifting away from Amanda, but Violet accidentally mentioned the sleepover to her parents. They insisted she go and “get back to living.” When Violet turns the corner, she sees that the “sleepover” is actually a party with lots of people. But she goes in, accepts a red cup, and thinks that everyone is too loud. She finds Amanda and Suze on the couch in the basement. People are dancing and kissing.
Violet’s parents seem intent on returning to normal after Eleanor’s death. By insisting that Violet needs to “get back to living,” they propose that Violet is holding herself back as she mourns her sister’s death. But this also suggests that Violet’s parents perhaps aren’t fully aware of how much Violet is still struggling. Indeed, Violet’s perception that everything is too loud suggests that she’s still traumatized over the accident.
Amanda waves at Violet, tells her they need to fix Violet’s hair (Violet recently gave herself bangs), and asks if Violet could wear one of Eleanor’s sweaters instead of her glasses. Ignoring this, Violet says she’s going to leave because she’s not feeling well. Suze asks if it’s true that Violet saved Finch. Violet says it is true, but she silently wishes the day would just disappear. Suze goes on to say that Finch is weird, but she’s had sex with him, and he knows what he’s doing. Violet thinks that she’s just glad Finch was there to save her from killing herself. She can’t imagine what her parents would’ve done; she’s here tonight in part because she feels so guilty for almost putting them through losing their last living child.
Amanda seems to think much the same thing as Violet’s parents—that Violet should try harder to move on. This makes Violet feel even more alone among people who are supposed to be her friends. And this feeling gets even worse as Violet thinks about the fact that nobody except for Finch knows the truth about why she was up on the belltower. Again, it’s impossible for her to ignore the stigma surrounding mental health issues and suicide in particular—and that stigma makes her feel unable to talk about her problems.
Roamer appears, sets down an ice bucket of beer, and asks why Violet was in the belltower in the first place. He notes that the door is locked and barricaded. Violet says she saw Finch sneak up; he must’ve picked the lock. (Violet actually picked the lock, but no one suspects her because she looks innocent.) Roamer says she should’ve let Finch jump after Finch threw the desk at him last year, and Amanda asks if Finch might like Violet. A year ago, Violet would’ve fit in at this party. She would’ve spent the evening writing witty commentary in her head. But now she feels out of place, and everything is too loud. When Violet sees a reporter from the school paper coming, she excuses herself, goes outside, and vomits.
The aside that nobody suspects Violet of being able to pick locks introduces one of the novel’s main ideas: that it’s impossible to know everything about a person just by how they look. Violet may look innocent and be popular, but there’s more to her than that. And further, Violet seems to find people’s perceptions of her exhausting and difficult to manage. She no longer feels like the same person she was a year ago, when those perceptions weren’t wrong. In short, she’s having a hard time being herself .
The last party Violet went to was on April 4th, the night Eleanor died—and now, this party is bringing all the memories back. As Violet picks herself up from vomiting, she runs right into Ryan. He’s perfect—unlike Violet. Violet wonders what he’d do if he knew Finch saved her, not the other way around. Ryan picks Violet up, spins her around, and tries to kiss her. Violet remembers the night of their first kiss: it was April, and it had started to snow. While Eleanor was upstairs with Ryan’s older brother, Ryan led Violet outside and kissed her. Now, Violet wishes she had a picture of that moment—it was the last good moment before everything changed forever. Violet pulls away from Ryan and runs home.
Here, the novel explains why Violet is struggling so much with this party: it’s bringing back all the good and bad memories of Eleanor’s last night alive. When Violet insists that Ryan is perfect, unlike her, it implies that she sees herself as lesser because of her mental health issues. And again, she fears the stigma attached to contemplating suicide—this is why she wonders what Ryan would think if he knew that Finch saved her and not the other way around. Given how unmoored and upset Violet is in this moment, it’s perhaps unsurprising why she’s not ready to get back to “living.” Living is, in many ways, too painful and brings up too many unhappy memories.
Violet’s mom and Violet’s dad are on the sofa when Violet gets home. They comment that she’s home early, and Violet says that she knew it was a bad idea: it was a party, not a sleepover. Violet’s mom invites her to sit with them and talk about it. Violet thinks that her parents are perfect, like Ryan; they’re involved and supportive, but Violet is too upset to humor them. She heads upstairs and changes into her favorite pajamas and slippers. Then, she crosses off the day on the calendar with a big X and settles in with her books. She’s currently trying to decide which Brontë sister she likes best.
As Violet talks about her parents and Ryan being perfect, she implies that she’s flawed by comparison. This speaks, in part, to the stigma surrounding mental health issues: in Violet’s mind, she’s not perfect simply because she’s struggling with trauma and grief. The X’s on her calendar (and the countdown to graduation in her chapter titles) show that Violet also isn’t making any effort to enjoy high school. She wants to move on to the next thing, as soon as possible.
After a while, Violet checks Facebook and finds a video that Finch posted a few hours ago. He’s singing a song about jumping off the school roof, and when he’s done singing, he asks Violet to confirm that she’s still alive. Angry, Violet messages him and asks him to take the video down. He messages back, saying that they should talk about what happened, and he explains that Violet is the only one who saw the video—she’s his only friend. He also deletes the video.
Finch seems to feel the same way about mental illness as Violet does (that struggling with mental health is something private and shameful), so it’s somewhat perplexing why he’d post a video about suicide on a public forum. But by doing this to reach out to Violet, he implies that they should use their mental health struggles to connect with each other.
Finch suggests that he could come over so they can talk in person instead of talking online. Violet, scandalized, writes that it’s too late. But when Finch notes that they could talk at lunch tomorrow, Violet says he can come over—as long as he agrees to drop the subject afterward. She regrets this immediately.
Violet doesn’t want to speak to Finch at lunch tomorrow because she knows that being seen talking to him at school will damage her reputation. This shows how precarious her social circle and support network are, if she fears that one conversation might topple them.