Finch has undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and while he seems to recognize his disease on some level—he's not surprised when the school counselor brings it up—he never acknowledges the possibility that treatment could help.
He sees getting diagnosed as a label, and he'd rather suffer (and ultimately die) than deal with the stigma attached to it. Still, it's worth noting that Finch does pursue treatment options under the radar. He goes to the hospital to have his stomach pumped after he takes a bunch of sleeping pills, and he even attends a suicide support group in a nearby town. He doesn't want to be ill, and he fights his suicidal tendencies as best he can.
Finch fell through the cracks at his school because he was treated like a delinquent instead of a sick teen.
Violet and her family blame Finch's family for failing to recognize his illness, but they don't realize he went to great lengths to keep it a secret.
When it comes to families, sometimes the grass is greener on the other side. Violet envies Finch's freedom, while he's jealous of her closeness with her mom and dad.
Violet's parents are caring, but they seem repressed and tight-lipped about their daughter's death. Finch's dad is the opposite; he lets his feelings be known—sometimes with his fists. Finch's mom is wrapped up in her own problems to the point of neglect.
Still, there are certain similarities between the two families. One is secrets. Finch and Violet each keep things from their parents, even though it's for different reasons. The other thing they have in common is love. Violet's love for her parents and her dead sister is a huge part of her life. It drives her moods and her actions. Finch, too, loves his family, except for his dad…which seems reasonable, 'cause his dad is the worst.
Finch hid his illness from his family. They couldn't support him properly because they didn't know he needed help.
Finch's family members didn't offer the support he needed. Instead, they enabled his behavior.
Violet and Finch are guilty as sin. Or at least they feel that way. In truth, they're just kids trying to cope with big, adult-sized problems.
Violet has to deal with her sister's death, for which she feels responsible…and she feels the same way after Finch dies (even though those deaths were caused by an accident and suicide, respectively). She also feels guilty for her suicidal thoughts and lying to her parents.
Finch experiences some guilt, too, mostly because his mental illness takes a toll on his loved ones. As readers, we can see that toll is real, but unlike Finch, we understand that it's not his fault.
When it comes to Finch's suicide, mental illness—not the people in his life—is to blame.
When it comes to Finch's suicide, his parents' behavior is at least partially responsible. They should have helped him get the treatment he needed.
Throughout the novel, Violet and Finch each search for a sense of identity. Violet lost hers in the car accident that killed her sister. For her, Eleanor was a point of comparison—someone to define herself against. Now that Eleanor's gone, Violet feels as though she's disappeared, too; she no longer enjoys cheering, or writing, or anything, for that matter.
Finch struggles with finding himself, too. Maybe he's too sick to have a fully formed identity, or maybe he's trying to outrun labels like "mentally ill." Maybe, to some extent, it's regular teenager stuff. In any case, he wasn't himself—or at least the best version of himself—when he died. We know the "real" Finch wanted to live.
Violet feels like a changed person by the end of the novel, but she's regained her sense of self.
The reason Finch changes his appearance so frequently comes down to his fear of labels.
There's a lot of death in All the Bright Places. (Violet lost her sister, then Finch…and even when Finch was alive, he thought about death all the time.) There's death on pretty much every page, but we want to zoom in on two interesting and important points the book makes about suicide.
The first is busting the stereotype that people who commit suicide long for death. Finch didn't want to die; it's almost as though he committed suicide against his own will. That's because it was his disease—not his head or heart or soul or whatever—that wanted him dead.
The second is pointing out the stigma that surrounds suicide. At Finch's suicide support group, one teen points out that no one brought flowers after she tried to kill herself. Even Finch's family denies that his death was suicide; they call it an accident. Suicide is hard to talk about, which is one reason that some suicidal people have a hard time asking for help.
In helping Violet come to terms with her sister's death, Finch gave her the tools to cope with his own death.
Though Finch often thought about death, he didn't long for it. He fought his suicidal urges as best he could.
All the Bright Places is heavy on quotes from famous writers who killed themselves. (Bit of a downer, that.) On the other hand, its unofficial mascot is Dr. Seuss, whose book Oh, the Places You'll Go! is one of Finch and Violet's greatest hits. The moral of that book can be summed up thusly: The future's so bright, you've gotta wear shades.
In other words, it's all about hope.
When we think about hopes and dreams and plans, we think of Violet. Her journey in the novel is about rediscovering her own capacity to engage with the world around her. For a long time after her sister's death, she takes a dim view of existence. She's just not feeling it. Her time with Finch helps her see that there's good in the world. Her unhappiness doesn't go away, but she's able to set it aside enough to start participating in her own life again.
Finch's notion of the "perfect day" was unrealistic. There are no perfect days, and his inability to accept that was a flaw.
Finch's notion of the "perfect day" wasn't too much to ask for. It would have been easier to achieve if he'd sought treatment for his bipolar disorder.
In All the Bright Places, change is arguably good, or bad, or both. (Part of what makes it so confusing is that most of the good changes stem from some sort of bad change.) Only one thing's for sure: Change is inevitable.
Finch probably understands this better than anyone. He helps Violet accept the change that has rocked her life—the death of her sister—by teaching her how to appreciate life in the moment. It's sad how quickly she had to draw on that knowledge a second time, following the death of Finch.
In the world of the book, change is a force for good. It helps Violet overcome her sadness and move on with her life.
In the world of the book, change is a force for bad. It only brings death and heartache.
The plot of the book is structured around Finch and Violet's "wanders." Long story short: their U.S. Geography teacher has asked the class to pair off, visit wondrous sites around their home state, and report back for a grade.
Our dynamic duo takes the project very seriously, in part because they're using it as an excuse to make out all over the state of Indiana.
Finch has a good time during their wandering, but the person who benefits from it most is Violet. She's slowly learning how to reinhabit her own life, which she felt like she had to abandon after the death of her sister. Traveling around the state with the boy she loves, Violet sees the world through a new set of eyes.
Traveling around Indiana leads Violet on an inward journey.
Like life itself, "wandering" is what you make it of it. It can be beautiful or boring depending on your point of view.