According to Theodore Finch, "There is more to [Violet] than meets the eye" (6.64). A former cheerleader who runs around school picking locks, she's a walking paradox: a student who doesn't work, a writer who doesn't write, and a survivor who's thinking about killing herself.
See, Violet was in an accident last year—a car crash that killed her sister. Ever since, she's found this whole "living" thing to be overrated. She goes through the motions at school, until one day she doesn't. Almost without thinking, she finds herself on a ledge. That's when she meets Finch, the guy who changes her life.
Before Eleanor's death, Violet considered herself a regular high-schooler:
Normal teenage Violet. Violet Unremarkey-able. (11.42)
Does that nickname (a play on her last name, Markey) sound sort of like a stretch to you? Well, just wait for the one that Finch comes up with: "Ultraviolet Remarkey-able," which he uses to refer to Violet 2.0 (24.31).
(Ugh, we wouldn't even mention this terrible pet name except that he calls her that around 50,000 times.)
The point to these two nicknames, though, is that Violet was changed by her car accident. In a way, there really are two Violets. Violet II has lost interest in all the stuff that Violet I used to care about, including writing, dating, and cheerleading. She even loses her will to be Violet, which is one reason that she runs into Finch on that ledge.
To fill the hole, Violet half-heartedly assumes her dead sister's identity, going so far as to wear her prescription eyeglasses:
They were stylish on her. They're ugly on me. But maybe, if I wear the glasses long enough, I can be like her. I can see what she saw. I can be both of us at once so no one will have to miss her, most of all me. (2.49)
Surprise, surprise: The glasses don't work. They just give Violet a headache. It's a sad, and ineffective, means of coping with the grief and survivor's guilt that have haunted her since the accident.
Time to try something else.
Eventually, Violet comes back to life. At least at first, this isn't due to the passage of time or her own inner strength or anything like that. It's due to Finch, who helps rekindle her interest in the world around her. It's not that he "fixes" her; it's just that Violet needed to step outside herself for a while to regain her hold on who she is.
With some not-so-gentle nudging, Finch convinces Violet to do stuff like ride in a car and take notes for a project. It sounds simple, but she hadn't been able to do those things for months. He also convinces her to try new things, including some sexy sex. As they fall in love, they "wander" the state of Indiana, taking in some of the country's more minor wonders. (World's biggest ball of paint, anyone?)
In other words, she opens up and lives a little.
Those small steps lead to big leaps and bounds. Inspired by Finch, who's a musician, Violet decides to return to writing. (She ran a popular website, eleanorandviolet.com, with Eleanor, but let the site lapse after E's death.) She starts brainstorming for what will eventually become Germ, a Rookie-style web magazine. She organizes dozens of contributors, bringing together new friends (like Brenda, whom she met through Finch) and old friends (like Amanda).
She's not the old Violet—that person is gone—but she's feeling more like herself.
We wouldn't have blamed Violet at all if all her solid emotional progress had been blown by Finch's suicide. (That would have been totally understandable.) Amazingly, it wasn't. She's super sad for sure, but she finds healthy outlets for that sadness, like working on the magazine and hanging out with friends.
Now an old hand at grief, she even starts the process of helping her parents deal with Eleanor's death. (Up until now, they've been a little repressed.) She tells them:
"Like it or not, she was here and now she's gone, but she doesn't have to be completely gone. That's up to us." (56.35)
Now completely wise beyond her years, Violet's learned to accept the past. This helps her find the heart to look into her uncertain future with something more like excitement than dread.