Welcome to Bartlett High School, where it seems like everyone has an awful secret, tragedy…or both. Violet tells us:
Our town is small but our school is large. We have over two thousand students because we're the only high school for miles. (11.2)
Bartlett itself is sort of hard to pin down; it has some fancy-sounding classes (Russian Lit and Humanities, anyone?) for a public school, but people are allowed to smoke during gym class. (Um, what?) Also it offers, in what seems to be the present day, a macramé extracurricular? Go figure.
Geography class—U.S. Geography class, to be precise—is really important in this novel because it's what brings Violet and Finch together. For a project, the pair is tasked with "wandering" around the state of Indiana (which is, of course, where they live). Together, they float in a legendary swimming hole, ride homemade roller coasters, and visit a bookmobile park.
The magic they find in these ordinary places pushes against what some readers (and characters) think of as a faceless Midwestern state.