Clichéd, Innovative, Writerly
While Finch and Violet have real depth, it's hard to ignore the degree to which the author relies on cliché to build her secondary characters. It's hard to say which is more cheesy: Amanda, the perfect cheerleader who secretly has bulimia; Finch's mother, a pathetic divorcee who loves wine (and just hates being single); or his father, a cheatin' bigot who grills a lot of meat in between his beatdowns of various women and children.
Even Finch's world-weary guidance counselor (with "dark circles under his eyes and the smoker's lines etched around his mouth" [1.93]) came straight out of central casting.
Still, there are some modern, even innovative, touches. One is the subtitles for the chapters, which help tell the story. Finch's chapters measure the days by how long he's been "awake"—that is, not depressed (Chapter 3, for instance, is "Day 6 (still) of being awake"). Violet's chapters start by counting down the days to graduation ("153 days till graduation"). Later, after she has sex with Finch, they reset: Chapter 33 is "The Day Of" and Chapter 35 is "The morning after." We can see she's measuring time in a new way, living in the moment.
There are other modern touches, too, like the online mag that Violet's working on and her long instant-message conversations with Finch. Which brings us to our last style word: writerly.
Violet's a writer. Finch is a writer of songs, as well as the thousands of Post-its he sticks to his walls. And the two of them constantly quote writers like Virginia Woolf to one another to better express all their feelings. Finch says:
My skin starts to burn. She's quoting Virginia Woolf back to me. My pulse has tripled its pace. (8.50)
We feel you, Finch. Our pulse triples whenever we meet another Woolf fan, too.