Review: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Synopsis: Theodore Finch and Violet Markey are two teens who meet at the top of their school’s bell tower. Both of them are there to look over the ledge and feel, for even just a moment, what it might be like to take the leap. When Violet teeters on the edge, scared to death of falling after realizing just how close to the edge she is, Finch helps her down and starts an unlikely friendship. The eclectic pair, both struggling with different mental illnesses, partner for a school project that leads them across the state of Indiana and into a relationship that will allow the two of them to express themselves in ways they never could before. While Violet begins to heal, though, Finch, despite his best efforts, teeters on the brink of losing control. Though their future may be up in the air, one thing is for sure: both of them have been changed forever.

       Review: Seeing as how I have heard this book compared to both Rowell’s Eleanor and Park and Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, I knew this would probably lead to some tears and heartache, both for the characters and for myself. Boy, did I assume correctly.

       Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I had heard a lot of hype on booklr, booktube, etc., and it lived up to it. It’s one of the better books that I’ve read recently.

       Let’s start with talking about my favorite character: Violet. I love this character for a multitude of reasons, but mostly, because I loved the fact that she starts off with two completely paradoxical characteristics: a fear of life and a fear of death. I feel like this is a very relatable thing for anyone who has gone through something traumatic (Violet was in a car accident with her sister earlier in the year) and/or has experienced the death of someone close (in Violet’s case, her sister). At the beginning of the book, she is overwhelmed with grief, and it has paralyzed her into a very unhealthy place. So afraid of going back to normal and moving on, though, she doesn’t feel like she can talk about her problems. She feels stuck in this place, that I feel many have probably been in, of just wanting to sit in her sorrow and not get better.

       Then comes Finch with his blue eyes and his adventures and his ability to get her into a car for the first time in almost a year. Slowly, she begins to remember what it is like to live and to love and to remember the good times without holding the bad ones over everything. She remembers what it feels like to find value in herself instead of shame and guilt. This character development was probably my favorite throughout the entire book. She finds a way, even in the last heart-breaking pages of this book, to embrace the bad things in her life and make herself better because of them.

       Finch…. Where do I start with this boy? He is…. lovely, maddening, beautiful, and annoying all at once. He is one of those characters that makes me want to open the book at the beginning and start back over, just to try and understand him better and to relate to him better. I had a hard time with Finch, in all honesty. I never quite knew what to make of him, and there were times when I just didn’t understand why he was feeling or doing the things that he was, but then again, maybe he didn’t either.

       You see, Finch’s mental illness is not revealed until towards the end of the book, but the signs of there definitely being something wrong is apparent to the reader through out. It is troubling to read through his emotions and his thoughts and to try to relate when you have never experienced something like it before.

       Which I think is what makes his point of view so important. This book could have been solely from Violet’s POV,  but I think the conversations that can start because of this book are all because of Finch’s POV. He is a character who knows that something isn’t quite right with the things he feels and thinks, but he buries all of it. He buries it because of his family, because of bullies, because of the title ‘freak’ and because of the stigma that he knows comes across with being diagnosed with a mental illness.

       I won’t ruin the end of the book for you all, because I think it is fundamental to the impact of this story. I don’t think, had the ending been different, had certain things worked out or not have happened, that the conversations that need to occur after reading this book would take place. This book is the perfect opportunity to talk about a lot of things: relationships with parents; romantic relationships; the impact of education, educators, and counselors on those who are fundamentally different from their peers; the stigma that comes along with having or knowing someone with a mental illness, bullying, mental illness itself, death, mourning, and suicidal thoughts. Something talked about a lot in the book is the stigma that comes along with all of these topics, and I think that this books is truly going to give people the chance to bulldoze those stigmas and actually have a chance to have these conversations.

       There were a few small problems that I had with it, including the characters saying things that sounded like very forced “teenage” things to say (This is a common problem in YA, I feel, because adult authors want to be able to relate to teens, when really, it just throws the reader off from what’s trying to be said.). There were also a couple of times when I felt what the characters said or did was out of character, especially one instance at the end of the book when Violet says something to one of her friends about how feeling depressed and having suicidal thoughts don’t concur, in her mind, with being popular and loved. I felt like this was something very out of character and something that Violet, with all that she had gone through and experienced herself, would have realized by now.

       Besides these things, I enjoyed this book immensely. It’s one of those books that sticks with you and keeps you thinking about it and its characters days after finishing it. It’s one of those books that you want to lend out just so you can have someone to talk to about it. It’s one of those books that makes you want to get involved and to help begin the important conversations that have to be had. I would have to agree that this book is similar to Eleanor and Park and The Fault in Our Stars. Perhaps not quite on the same level as these two (and let’s face it these two books just take the cake in my mind, so they’re hard to beat), but still very similar, both in story and in the importance of the conversations that can be sparked from it.

       I would recommend this book to… everyone. I was going to make a list of people who may like it, but I don’t care if you usually read books like this or not: Read it. Start talking about it. Start making a difference. Because this books matters. Talk about these things that affect so many people who are stigmatized into feeling like they don’t have a voice to openly discuss the things they struggle with on a daily basis.

Rating:

4 out of 5 Cups of Tea

        Your Pemberley Reader,

Acacia

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