Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Tara’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
My local bookstore has been promoting this book like CRAZY for weeks and weeks – so I finally bit the bullet and gave it a shot, only to be 100% captivated.
A quick summary from the author’s website:
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might die, but every day he also searches for—and manages to find—something to keep him here, and alive, and awake.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—six stories above the ground—it’s unclear who saves whom. And when the unlikely pair teams up on a class project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, they go, as Finch says, where the road takes them: the grand, the small, the bizarre, the beautiful, the ugly, the surprising—just like life.
Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a bold, funny, live-out-loud guy, who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet forgets to count away the days and starts living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
This is a heart-wrenching, unflinching story of love shared, life lived, and two teens who find one another while standing on the edge.
All the Bright Places is about a boy and a girl who meet, try to help each other, and fall in love along the way. However, it’s not all sunshine and flowers. This book hurts–a physical, visceral hurt that doesn’t abate even when the last page has been turned.
The book shifts between Violet and Finch’s point of view, both of whom have extremely different perspectives and both of whom are suffering in their own way. This is one of the rare occurrences where I didn’t have a preference of one narrator or the other–both ways of telling the story are compelling. And you can tell, as you read, how each character shifts and grows in response to the other–or how, completely independent of one another, their growth is cut short.
I’ve seen a few complaints on Goodreads (I can’t help but browse other reviews sometimes, especially when I see that they’ve rated the book so much lower than I did) about Finch as a “good” character. Some people have said that Finch is manipulative, that he pushes Violet too far, and that he doesn’t back down, etc. I didn’t see this as being too vicious an issue in the story. Sure, he pushes her outside her comfort zone, but sometimes you have to be pushed beyond your limits in order to break free from the rut that you’re stuck in. Plus, no character is perfect, and I don’t think that this aspect of his personality was romanticized in any way, though each to their own opinion.
All the Bright Places also takes a very real look at mental illness, which really resonated with me. Its take on mental illness is genuine, and I think this book has the ability to help readers see hope, or at least see the need to get help for their own issues–the lack of which was the most frustrating part of the story. I’ve read an almost alarming number of YA books about depression and suicide lately (though why, I don’t know). It seems to be the trend in the newest releases, I guess, and this one hit the mark in terms of really showing the realities of it.
(And as an added bonus, the story takes place in Indiana, and the state plays a fairly large role in the actual plot of the book, too. Hoosier pride, represent.)
In sum: I loved All the Bright Places. I’ll read it again, and I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind crying through their reading experience.
This guest post was contributed by Tara Olivero. Tara graduated from Ball State University with a degree in Secondary English Education. When she’s not teaching 10th grade English, she regularly reviews books. Check out her blog for more book reviews.