Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people ages 10-24 and approximately 4,600 people in this age category die each year from suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, more young people survive suicide attempts than actually die. A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9–12 in public and private schools in the United States found that 16% of students reported seriously considering suicide, 13% reported creating a plan, and 8% reporting trying to take their own life in the 12 months preceding the survey. Each year, approximately 157,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at Emergency Departments across the U.S.
The top of a clock tower, contemplating suicide, is a strange place to
meet, but so it was with Theo Finch and Violet Markey. Her sister, Eleanor, dies nine months previously in an auto accident for which Violet feels responsible. It was her idea to take the A Street Bridge which can get treacherously slippery at times. Theo is just trying to get away from a broken family, abusive father and bullies at school calling him Freak.
It is Theo who saves Violet, not only from jumping but from the paralyzed life she is leading. She refused to get into a moving car and rides her bicycle, Leroy, everywhere. She has stopped writing (she and Eleanor had co-authored a blog). She has disengaged from all her friends. When Finch requested to be partnered with Violet in a U.S. Geography project that will force them to travel around the state of Indiana, she is forced into a car and she is forced to write, to things that will get her on the road to recovery.
However, Theo’s issues are more severe. Theo has clearly fallen in love with Violet. She has shown him that there are good days, not only bad ones. And while, in many ways, Violet has saved Theo, the real question is will it be enough.
While I liked All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, I didn’t love it. It is another case of an odd couple, in this case the once-popular girl and the outcast guy. It is also another case of a road trip changing someone’s life. I don’t have a feel for whether Theo rings true because I’ve never known anyone who was extremely bipolar, so it was hard for me to get into his character. The book does provide an interesting contrast in parents when you compare Theo’s to Violet’s and it raises the unanswerable question of ‘should a parent be able recognize that a child needs help or are they always the last one to know?’
A recent book I would recommend about suicide is Falling into Place by Amy Zhang. In that, you can feel the pain.