Jennifer Niven/ Fiction Literary
[★-lost me ★★-average ★★★-worth a read ★★★★-excellent ★★★★★-amazing]
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.
Glowing reviews? Check. Romance? Check. Teen romance? Check. Subject I’ve never explored before? Check so hard the paper tears.
But tbh, I couldn’t get myself to keep reading. It was too slow. Too monotonous. Too chick-lit. Nothing about suicide in the first half. Only two teens who want to live and also don’t want to live. Another story about a clichéd weird guy and a pretty famous girl? I almost gave up.
But I couldn’t, because I am Anam Shaikh, and if I don’t complete reading a book, that’s not my name. So I toiled, reminded myself of all the other amazing books I am going to read after this. Bribed myself. Totally worth it.
The story is told through Finch and Violet’s alternating perspectives, which brings the touching tale to life beautifully. This is a story full of unique quirks and endearing, detailed characters. Yet it still has a basis in real life, with more than one tear-jerker moment and a heart breaking (but slightly bitter-sweet) ending.
I loved the idea of the plot. Without spoiling too much, I can tell you that our star-crossed lovers visit a ball of paint, a back-yard roller-coaster and a tiny mountain. Through their visits to these strange places, the pair bond and eventually become romantically involved.
While Finch goes through days on the basis of days he has been awake, Violet counts down her days to graduation. All the Bright Places is about two teens with depression. Violet’s sister died in a car accident the previous year and Violet blames herself for it. Finch has a long history of acting out and having sudden extreme mood swings. It is heavily implied that he is also bi-polar. At the start of the book both teens have suicidal thoughts, but Finch manages to talk Violet off of a ledge and Violet becomes Finch’s new reason for living. From there the story becomes about their budding romance as well as their personal growth. They learn about themselves and each other while exploring the hidden wonders of Indiana.
The characters are shown in so much detail, through straight forward description as well as how they speak and act. There is some beautiful imagery and a number of amazing quotes that could rival those from The Fault in our Stars which are currently taking over the internet. Instead of “You gave me a forever within the numbered days.”, try “You are all the colours at once, at full brightness.”
This is not a trashy romance though. The romance in All the Bright Places is used carefully and it is endearing rather than raunchy, which is nice. But this is also a book with an important message. It incorporates serious themes such as mental health and suicide. It is a book for mature readers. I think it is brilliant that Niven put links to websites that help people dealing with these topics. The book could make readers realise they have a related issue and it’s great that support is offered. If I had to pick a fault in this book, it would be that the secondary characters could do with more detail. There is so much focus on Violet and Finch that we lose sight of the other people involved. I would’ve liked to know more about Violet’s ex-boyfriend, or both our principals’ parents. However, now we come to the book’s greatest flaw: this is not a book for people with depression.
The second half of the book more than makes up for the boring first part. Once Finch dies, I feel that All the Bright Places really shows its true colors. I have seen this novel advertised as a story about teenage depression, but I don’t think that’s quite right. It’s a book for people with friends who commit suicide. The author admits at the end that it was an experience she went through herself and the last chunk of the story is all about Violet coping with losing Finch.
This is The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor And Park meets P.S. I Love You, but mostly, it is All The Bright Places.
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