Book Review: All the Bright Places

Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: Contemporary, (Young Adult)
Pages: 388
Published by: Penguin
First Published: January 6th, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal Perchace

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

Plot Overview:

There isn’t much to say that wasn’t said in the synopsis so I’ll keep it short.

After Finch and Violet meet they become unlikely friends and find that they can be themselves around the other. Violet doesn’t  have to try hard to have a good time and Finch can be completely comfortable being himself. They both go through a lot of internal struggle and they both, knowingly and unknowingly, aid each other through it.

My Thoughts:

Going into this book, I didn’t really know anything about it except that it dealt with the topic of suicide. Kudos to Jennifer Niven for writng about a serious topic in an apologetically true way. If you’ve read the synopsis then you know that this isn’t a fluffly, giddy contemporary. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely humor in this book but this book also deals with heavy topics. There are trigger warnings in here for suicide, abuse, depression and mental illness.

Before reading this book I had a feeling that I’d enjoy it but I didn’t know how much I’d end up loving it. I found myself wanting to tab a lot of pages. There are so many quotable scenes in here! The writing is without a doubt lovely. It’s the type of writing that gets the philosophical part of you to really think. I love writing like this because I know even long after I’ve read the book it’ll continue to echo on in my mind.

The book is told from duel perspectives which I believe was executed perfectly. Both characters, Finch and Violet, have such distinct voices it was impossible to mix them up. The duel point of views allow readers to view the characters individually, as their own person with their singular character growth, which is important because they both go through two different things. It also allows us to see how they grow together and how they impact one another. (more on the characters later)

This book made me feel so many things. Despite the dark topics in All the Bright Places, it is so full of life and it displays that trough the variety of emotions it sparks forth. I felt happy at times, sad at times and everything in between. But mostly it made me want to wander and see the world with an open mind. Finch and Violet explore all these unusual places around Indianapolis (where they live) for a geography project which allowed them to expierence what they otherwise wouldn’t have. It made me thirsty to explore all the places I live next to that I don’t know exists because I’ve overlooked them. It made me want to get out and live like I’m on a time limit. I think that really says something about the book if it can take you through all that.

The plot isn’t really concrete; there are no ups and downs and twist and turns in this plot like you’d find in, lets say, an action book. It’s more of a cruise (that bombards you with emotions). And I’m okay with that; it completely works for the story. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is more of a character driven book than a plot driven one. All the Bright Places has given me so much to think about and I’m completely grateful for that. When reading the Author’s Note in the back of the book (I’d suggest you read the book first) I found out that the author experienced some of the things in the book. And truthfully, I can’t say I was surprised. The book is so beautiful and raw that it could have only been written by someone who experienced and witnessed some of what was in the book first hand.

On the Characters:

These characters were well written. Jennifer Niven was able to get into the mindset of a teenage girl and boy and write them so well that they are no longer just words on the page; they manifest into 3D forms.

Theodore Finch comes from a dysfunctional household. It’s clear from the start that something is wrong in Finch’s life but not clear on what it is exactly. He describes himself to fall into something he calls Asleep where he loses track of time and doesn’t remember much while he’s Asleep. I took that to mean he shuts down in some way. The vagueness of his condition didn’t bother me because we don’t always know what’s wrong with ourselves. Finch doesn’t seem to know exactly what’s wrong either. When he’s not Asleep he’s Awake, full of energy and trying to make up for missed time. He doesn’t speak up to people about what he’s going through because he doesn’t want to be diagnosed. To him a diagnoses is a label. He doesn’t want to be known for that label, he doesn’t want it to make up who he is. He struggles with identity.

He is by far one of the quirkiest and complex characters I’ve read about. He does things on a whim. One day he’ll be 80’s Finch and talk and dress like a version of himself in the 80’s, then he’ll change it up and be British Finch or Nerd Finch and so on. Finch is fascinated by death which both, makes him see things in a unique light and haunts him. Like Violet he has thought about suicide. (More so than Violet actually.) And ever since meeting Violet he has been fighting to stay in his state of Awake, to live and wander with her.

Violet is an equally engaging character, though I did enjoy Finch’s narrative more. She is somehow contrary to Finch; she has always planned for the far future, she has a clean record in and out of school, she has a stable family, she participates in many activities and hangs out with popular kids in school. Then her sister dies in a car accident they were both in. Her sister, her closest friend. And her world falls apart. Everything that was so familiar to her now seems so foreign and she doesn’t know how to deal with that. She doesn’t know how to continue on with everyone else when her world is so drastically changed. Violet feels guilty for living while her sister died and simply doesn’t want to continue on. She meets Finch on the school bell tower and Finch talks her down from the edge. He shows her life from different eyes. He doesn’t tiptoe around her and act like she’s so fragile; he pushes her to her limits.

Quotes from the Book:

  • “The problem with people is they forget that most of the time it’s the small things that count.”
  • “What if life could be this way? Only the happy parts, none of the terrible, not even the mildly unpleasant. What if we could just cut out the bad and keep the good? ”
  • “Sorry wastes time. You have to live your life like you’ll never be sorry. It’s easier just to do the right thing from the start so there’s nothing to apologize for.”
  • “When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much, do they?”
  • “I have this feeling like I’m waiting for something. But I have no idea what”
  • “Your hope lies in accepting your life as it now lies before you, forever changed. If you can do that, the peace you seek will follow.”




13 thoughts on “Book Review: All the Bright Places

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