Capturing Coping by Haevyn Seidel
My main topic was mental illness, and the YA book I chose was All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. The question I was attempting to investigate further was how does each person cope with their mental illness differently? Throughout the book I also found contrasts to my own question in finding similarities in coping methods.
The main characters of the book Violet and Finch both struggle heavily with mental illness. Violet struggles with heavy anxiety and moderate depression because of her sister dying in a car accident in which she was next to her in the car. Her anxiety hinders her from getting into a car at all for a long time following that accident. Finch struggles with severe depression with constant suicidal thoughts and possibly bipolar disorder, although it is never clearly stated where this comes from. I think that Niven also wanted us to look at how two people with mental illness can be in relationship and the ways in which that can both help and hurt. The book clearly illustrates how Violet and Finch could relate to each other in order to not feel alone and even benefit each other in a couple other ways. Violet finally gets into a car, but only with Finch. Finch realizes that he doesnt think about suicide when he’s with Violet and that he may actually truly feel happiness with her. At first, Violet uses ignoring everything she did with her sister to cope. Looking back on the book, Finch doesn't really have a way to cope, which is why I think it ended up eating him alive until he killed himself. If anything Finch hides his true feelings from others to cope (which still is not much of a coping method at all), the difference we start to see is that when they are together, they use each other to cope.
I did not love this book due to the fact that it just seems as though the author did everything she could to make this a “typical relatable teen book” and that sort of annoys me. Finch is the perfect “he’s just a guy who truly doesn't care what people think” character that every middle school teen would love. I think that the content of the book, (past his character) is actually quite interesting. The way it’s structured, their point of views, how the characters perfectly complement each other in many ways, and the over all points I believe Niven was trying to convey, I actually really liked.
The reason I chose this topic/big question is because in 7th and 8th grade I had moderate depression that i was struggling with. I just had a terrible time at school, the teachers were mean to every student and didn't care, I had the most toxic of “friends”, my “friends” treated me like garbage, I was bullied in volleyball for not being pretty, skinny, or white, enough and in turn all of that made me feel terrible about myself. Thank god, I have fortunately come out of that place and haven't felt that way since middle school. I finally learned to drop friends that don’t treat me well, and only to be around people who make me happy. I quit volleyball after deciding it wasnt worth all of the tears, and I finally let my family in on the fact that I was struggling and realized how lucky I am to have a Mom, Dad, and older Brother that love me and care about me so much. Having my family and (actual) friends there really got me out of that place. I still have a bit of anxiety but I have learned to control and handle it pretty well, which I believe is something to be a little proud of.
After getting through this and looking back on it, I began to think about kids like Finch who didn't have friends or family to help him and eventually felt as though there was no other way away from the pain other than to end it for good. It breaks my heart thinking about all of the kids who weren't able to keep going, and who didn't have the support system they needed. I know I have several friends still struggling heavily with depression and I try to make sure they know everyday that I love them and would do anything for them if they needed me. I think that my friends were also a huge reason for me choosing this topic so I wanted to mention them also. Most of my friends use humor as a coping method which has become pretty standard in today's society, I find that quite interesting, which is the final reason I wanted to choose this topic. Today, humor is what captures coping in general but overall this book helps show how each person uses (or does not use)coping individually.
Haevyn Seidel is currently a senior at Mount Pleasant High School located in Michigan. She plans on attending Grand Valley State University next fall to study and pursue a career in engineering.