Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Theodore Finch suffers from an undiagnosed bipolar disorder. As he narrates his story, he tells the reader that he thinks about suicide every day. This is his first week back at school since November, as he experienced a long-term blackout. He counts the days since he “woke up.”

His older sister covered for him and told the school he had a severe case of the flu. His mother is unaware of his psychological problems and did not know he had missed so much school. Finch has no idea what happened over the holidays. This is his first week back after the winter break. He finds himself in the school’s bell tower, contemplating suicide again, and discovers he has company, Violet Markey.

When students below notice them, Finch pretends that Violet climbed up to save him. He quietly talks her down, even as the crowd grows below them. Once they are safe, Violet thanks Finch, but asks him not to tell anyone the truth.

Mr. Embry, the school counselor, calls Finch to his office. Finch convinces Embry that he was not considering suicide, but the counselor still wants to talk with him twice a week, just to be sure. Finch explains to the reader that he contemplates suicide not because he wants to die, but because he wants to have control of his life. He does not want to black out again.

Violet is counting the days until graduation. She has been depressed since the death of her sister, Eleanor, in a car accident the previous year. Life now has no meaning for Violet. She refuses to ride in a car and feels guilty for the occasional moment when she laughs or enjoys herself anymore. News circulates around the school that she saved Finch from committing suicide, and she does not deny it.

Finch and Violet are in the same geography class. The teacher assigns a special project, one in which students must pair up and find unique places in their home state of Indiana and make a report. Finch insists that he and Violet work together. She tries to convince the teacher she is not emotionally ready to do the assignment, but the teacher tells her it is time she stopped making excuses.

When Finch gets home that afternoon, he does something he swore he would never do and signs onto Facebook. He sends a friend request to Violet. She accepts it and sends an angry message about how he ambushed her in class, forcing her to do the assignment. He types a pithy response in which he extols the wonderful opportunity they have to explore the little known places of Indiana and find an adventure in it.

Violet does not respond. He makes up rules for their project. They have to use maps, not apps. They will take turns deciding where to explore, and they must leave something at every place they go.

As Violet and Finch begin, Finch has a crush on Violet and is eager to help her see the joy in life. Violet is intrigued by Finch’s eccentricities. He is highly intelligent, yet not a nerd. He changes personalities — pretending to be an Australian exchange student one day and a boy from the 80s the next day. Their exploration of Indiana starts with a bike ride to Hoosier Hill, the tallest point in the state. Although they are only required to visit two locations, Finch circles many more towns on the map that he wants to see.

As Violet begins to trust Finch, he is able to drive her to the next memorable place. It is the first time she has been in a car since the accident. Violet has picked The Bookmobile Park to visit.

They spend a wonderful few hours visiting the different trailers of books. Finch tells her that they must pick still another spot to visit as this one was too close to their town. He finds ways to be around her at school, even though they only have one class together.

He wakes her up in the middle of the night by throwing pebbles against her window, and then takes her on impromptu visits to the bookstore his mother owns so they can read Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Violet finds herself wanting Finch to kiss her, but he refrains.

Finch begins to descend into one of his dark periods again. He skips school to repaint his room. As his walls were a deep red, it takes several days for the new blue paint to cover the color. When he returns to school, he pulls the fire alarm so that he and Violet can leave school together and hang out by a river.

Finch goes skinny-dipping, while Violet writes about this new adventure. After Finch is dressed, several of Violet’s popular friends find them. One of them, Roamer, has been an enemy of Finch’s for several years. Roamer punches Finch several times before Finch finally defends himself by shoving Roamer’s head underwater.

Violet’s parents become concerned when they learn she skipped school after the fire alarm. They worry that Finch is a bad influence on her. Her mother, a writer, encourages Violet to start a new online magazine since she had success with the one she worked on with her sister.

Violet and her mother brainstorm about how the new webzine should look. The following morning, Finch comes to her house and convinces her parents that Violet was only trying to help him, which is why she cut class. Violet’s parents lay down some ground rules about their project so they feel like they are protecting their daughter.

Violet and Finch explore a man’s homemade rollercoasters that afternoon. On the way home, Finch kisses her. The two begin to make out in the back of his car, until he realizes that she is still a virgin. Then the two start using their wandering assignment as an excuse to get together and make out in the back of his car.

On the first warm day of winter, Finch picks Violet up and takes her to the Blue Hole, a bottomless lake. They try, unsuccessfully, to find the bottom together. When Finch tries again, he is under water so long Violet believes he died. When he resurfaces, she is furious. Her anger triggers an outburst that allows her to release some of her guilt and grief about the accident that killed her sister. Finch consoles her. When they stop at his house to clean up after their excursion, they have sex.

Finch starts to drive her home, but they stop to climb the Purina Tower and look out over the town. Unfortunately, they fall asleep, not waking up until the morning. Violet’s parents are furious. They called his mother and learned of Finch’s strange behavior and the lies he has told them about his family. They forbid her to see Finch anymore.

When Finch returns home, he learns that his mother called her ex-husband, Finch’s father, hoping he might know where his son was for the night. Finch’s father arrives and promptly starts to beat on his son but, for once, Finch stands up to him and stops him. Finch’s depression worsens when he cannot convince Violet’s parents to let him see her again.

He moves his comforter into his closet and begins to spend much of his time there. At school, he starts to lose time again. Mr. Embry reveals that he may be bipolar and should talk to a specialist and get medication. All Finch hears is another label to make him more of a freak. When he loses his temper at school, beating up Roamer, he is expelled.

At home, he deletes Mr. Embry’s message from the answering machine so his mother will not hear it and grow worried. Later, he takes a bottle of sleeping pills but runs to the hospital to get his stomach pumped before they can work. He flees the hospital before anyone can find out his identity. He attends a support group for people who have tried or are considering suicide, but it does not help him.

A friend of Violet’s tells her she saw Finch at a suicide prevention meeting. Violet celebrates Finch’s birthday dinner with him in his closet, and she tells him that she knows about his suicide attempt. Finch sends her away. Back home, Violet tells her parents that she has been disobeying them and seeing Finch, but that she loves him, and she needs their help to save him.

They try to call his mother, but leave a message on the machine that, unbeknownst to them, she never checks. When Finch does not show up to school, Violet goes to his house. His sister tells her that he is not home but that they are not worried, as he often disappears for several days at a time.

As days turn into weeks, Violet becomes increasingly worried. Finch finally sends her a cryptic message but turns off his phone before she can call him back. His mother assures her that Finch has promised to call her every Saturday to let her know he is safe and not to worry. But when he misses a call and then sends his family, Violet and his other two friends messages that ring of goodbye, Violet sets out to find him.

She searches his room for clues and figures out where he may have gone from the notes in his closet. She returns to the Blue Hole, the place of their most perfect day together. She finds his clothes, neatly folded on the bank. The police send divers into the water, and they eventually find his body.

As a final goodbye, Finch has left clues for Violet to explore more places in Indiana. At each place, she finds a message of some kind from Finch. They help her to grieve him and let him go, being grateful for the effect he had on her life.

Christian Beliefs

Finch refers to himself as the second coming and says his life so far has been lived in purgatory. Finch assures Violet she will not go to hell if she laughs. He says if there is a hell, he will get there first, and they will be too busy with him to even pay attention to her.

A preacher quotes unspecified Bible verses at Finch’s funeral. Finch’s final destination for Violet to find was a chapel for travelers to stop and rest. It was built in memory of people who had lost their lives in auto accidents. He had underlined Philippians 2:15.

Other Belief Systems

Violet’s father talks about the Hindu practice of not striving for immortality, but rather seeking to live life to the fullest. After Finch’s death, Violet likes to think that Finch is in another world, better than this one, a world designed by him. She does not think a boy like Finch can ever really die. He will linger in legends.

Authority Roles

Finch’s parents are divorced. His mother works two jobs to help keep the family afloat, and perhaps as a way to stay out of the house as she does not know how to cope with her children. Finch’s dad is abusive and cheated on his mother before he divorced her. Neither parent seems concerned with the fact that Finch spends weeks in his closet or disappears entirely for days and weeks at a time.

Violet’s parents are loving, supportive and desperately trying to pull themselves and Violet back to normal after the death of her older sister. They try and keep her from Finch when his behavior causes her to act impulsively. They also try to help when Violet admits Finch’s suicidal thoughts.

Mr. Embry, the school counselor, talks to Finch about his suicidal thoughts and asks to meet with him twice a week. Later, Mr. Embry tells Finch that he may be bipolar and should talk to a specialist and get medication. He seems to generally want Finch’s best.


God’s name is used in vain with the word oh and d--nit. Jesus is also used in vain. At first, Finch will not use the f-word, and instead spells it out, but when he changes his persona, he starts using the f-word in its various tenses and parts of speech. A-- is used alone and with jack, boring and hole. S--- is used in various tenses. B--ch is used alone and with son of a. D--n is also used. Other objectionable words include faggot and w-nker

In one of his mental rants, Finch talks about a news report in which a gunman killed 13 fourth-graders. Violet has nightmares. In one, she watches her body melt into puddles and disappear. In another, someone strangles her from behind.

Finch sometimes has a violent temper. He is expelled from school for throwing a desk into a chalkboard and beating up Roamer. He thinks about slamming Roamer’s head into a locker and then pulling his heart out through his throat. Finch describes the suicide of an Italian poet, who killed himself in a hotel by taking sleeping pills.

Roamer punches Finch in the face several times before Finch fights back and shoves Roamer’s head underwater. The two fight again in the locker room and then in the hallway. Finch is expelled for the last fight. Finch explains the theory behind a “Euthanasia Coaster.” It is a rollercoaster with enough centrifugal force to kill the riders. Divers pull Finch’s bloated body from the water after his suicide.


Violet remembers her first kiss with her previous boyfriend, Ryan. After it, she allows him to kiss her several times. He slips his hands up her shirt before she stops him from going further. She has made it over 17 years without having sex and has no intention of having sex with Ryan.

She and Finch exchange several kisses on the cheek before Violet admits she is attracted to him. The longer they are together, their kissing gets more passionate and is described in more detail. They make out in the back of his SUV instead of doing their class assignment. Eventually, they have sex in Finch’s bedroom, once on his bed and once in his closet.

Finch dreams of seeing Violet naked, wearing only black boots. Finch says his friend Charlie gets laid more than anyone he knows. Charlie works at a movie theater and said he spent winter break sneaking hot girls in for free and then making out with them in the handicap row in the back. Charlie thinks Finch’s problems could be fixed if he got laid.

Finch thinks the world’s problems would get better if the world leaders would get laid regularly. Roamer asks a friend if he “scored” with a girl. His friend says he only got some a-- by accident. A girl tells Violet that she had sex with Finch in her sophomore year and that he knew what he was doing. Finch pretends to be homosexual to upset his macho father.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Smoking: Finch admits to his counselor that he smokes cigarettes, and he smokes several times in the story.

Alcohol: Violet attends a party where the teens drink beer. Finch’s father drinks beer and becomes abusive.

Lying: Finch makes a habit of lying to his family, the school counselor and his friends. He tells Violet it is not lying if it is how you feel.

References Age range: http://www.arbookfind.com/default.aspx Awards: http://www.cbcbooks.org/cbc-book-lists/2016-finalists/ , http://www.ala.org/news/member-news/2016/10/official-2016-teens-top-ten-titles-announced.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

14 and up


Jennifer Niven






Record Label



Ember, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC


On Video

Year Published



Children’s Book Council Award for Best Teen Novel 2016; American Library Association Top Ten book for Teens; and many others


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!