By: Jennifer Niven
Publication: January 6th, 2015
Genre(s): Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
If you read any book this month, this year, in your life, make sure you read All the Bright Places.
It is beautiful. Heart-wrenching. Nitty gritty. Masterful. A pure must-read.
The topics All the Bright Places explores are heavy, hard, and thought-provoking. Teens and adults alike reading this novel will face the issues of mental illness, suicide, and grief inside the pages with the two main characters, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey.
I’m cutting to the chase, folks: I stayed up past midnight, crying myself to sleep while flipping through the last few pages of this book. It’s inevitable that you’ll cry. I can only count on one hand the books that have made my cry: In third grade, Marley and Me had the tears coming. If I Stay, Second Chance Summer, and The Book Thief brought on the crying. All the Bright Places has the fifth spot on the list; the last book matched with my pinky when I count the small number of books that have made me cry.
I even saw a letter smudged with ink, and thought it was a stray tear (I held the book far away from my face that night so that no salty tears reached the bottom of the pages), but, after a few wipes and scratches, I realized that the book had come like that. From the tears that came from me, I think it’s fair of me to assume that was probably an editor or publisher crying over the book as they bound my version of the book. Sure, it’s probably most likely that the printer splotched some ink, but I’m going with the fun version of the story here.
To get to the point: I am so proud of Jennifer Niven for writing what she wrote. My first instinct after finishing ATBP was to send her an email that would only be able to convey a slice of my emotions, of how proud I was of her, about how grateful I am that she wrote the story she did. You go, Jennifer!
All the Bright Places tackles suicide and depression through the battles of both of our protagonists, Theodore and Violet. Theodore has always had a rough life, from abusive parents to his bipolar disorder. He has a habit of memorizing suicide facts and constantly thinking about death.
Check out the first line of All the Bright Places in Theodore Finch’s perspective:
“Is today a good day to die?
This is something I ask myself in the morning when I wake up. In third period when I’m trying to keep my eyes open while Mr. Schroeder drones on and on. At the supper table as I’m passing the green beans. At night when I’m lying awake because my brain won’t shut off due to all there is to think about.
Is today the day?
If not today—when?”
Violet Markey is drowning in her own grief over her sister’s tragic death, refusing to pick herself up and even attempt to be the girl she once was, feeling bad for being the only survivor in the car crash that left Eleanor, her sister dead.
“I wasn’t acting out. That wasn’t what it was. It’s just—I don’t cheer anymore. I quit student council. I suck at orchestra. I don’t have any friends or a boyfriend, because it’s not like the rest of the world stops, you know?” My voice is getting louder, and I can’t seem to do anything about it.
“Everyone goes on with their lives, and maybe I can’t keep up. Maybe I don’t want to.”
Pretty bleak quotes/feelings from those two, huh?
Well, the darkness inside both of these hurt people collides and burns into something bright and beautiful: a relationship.
Finch and Violet are paired up for a project where they have to “wander” Indiana. Besides being an educational experiences, during these “wanderings,” Violet and Finch find each other in the process, first becoming friends and then falling in love.
What I loved so much about this novel was that the characters: they were so flawed, funny, and endearing. Teenagers alike will fall in love with Finch, Violet and their story. Our society needs more books like this, books that highlight real problems of today and present them in a true light to readers. There’s not much else I can say, because All the Bright Places has so many beautiful moments, thoughts, and ideas expressed in every sentence, that I can’t even pinpoint anything, whether it’s a quote or moment that stands out in particular; everything made me cry, laugh, smile, and deeply examine my life. And, as a side note, being from the Midwest, I actually am only a few hours or even sometimes minutes away from some of the places explored in this book, and it taught me many things about my state. I might have to do some of my own wandering!
To sum up, All the Bright Places has earned a bright place in my heart. And it will earn one in yours.