TITLE: All The Bright Places
AUTHOR: Jennifer Niven
GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
RATING: 4/5 Stars
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.
What I Liked:
- Let's start with the obvious: it's focus on mental health. I always advocate for books, especially YA, that deal with tough issues and 'All The Bright Places' certainly did that. To begin with I thought that it would be about depression, but Finch's manic states of 'awake' followed by a very dark 'sleep' are much more reminiscent of Bipolar Disorder (his counsellor agrees though he's never officially diagnosed). Alongside mental health, Niven discusses grief and suicide which are written about in a thoughtful, well-educated way. I really liked that Niven talked about these topics sensitively, but imagined them from a teenage perspective.
- The characters are the biggest draw in this book. Particular MCs Violet Markey and Theodore Finch. I really liked Finch from the beginning, his outrageously eccentric personality and refusal to melt into the crowd made for some hilarious moments. I liked that while they were both dealing with some very horrible issues, they didn't 'become their problems'. They had interests and personality. They surround themselves with some interesting side-characters too which made for a really well-rounded reading experience.
- That ending. Yes, it made me absolutely bawl my eyes but from about two thirds of the way through the book, I could not put it down. The pace and urgency really picked up and while it was heart-breakingly inevitable, it was also the right sort of ending for a book like this. Reality can really hurt sometimes, but it delivered it's message: things that seem small to some people can be really big to others. I finished the book in tears, but satisfied that Niven had chosen such a great snippet of teenage complexities to focus on.
What I Disliked:
- There are some real complaints against the adults in the book, and I too felt really frustrated with them, as well as Finch's friends. After all, why weren't they doing something? Didn't they care? But despite the fact that they weren't my favourite characters, their reactions actually felt very real: parents and teachers and even counsellors can be very oblivious and while they might be doing what they think is right, it isn't always. That's why it's important that society stops treating Mental Health as a taboo subject! We need to be talking about this stuff!
- On another note, this book took me a while to get into, and that's probably my biggest 'dislike'. It throws you right into some action then immediately draws back into one of the longest build-ups I've ever read. While in some ways it was good to see a slow romance development (I despise insta-love with a passion) it did make 'All The Bright Places' feel like a long read.
A witty, achingly beautiful story with well-rounded characters and a good representation of issues surrounding mental health and suicide. I enjoyed the diverse cast list, I liked the last third or so of the story because I could feel that long build-up reaching it's peak, and I found both Finch and Markey relateable narrators in so many ways. I haven't really talked much about Violet's character but while it took me a while to like her POV chapters, once I did I really liked them. Her grief was well-portrayed and I loved watching how much her and Theodore came to rely upon each other. If you're after a book as heartbreaking as 'The Fault In Our Stars' then look no further!