Book Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright PlacesHere’s your synopsis from Amazon:

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.

1. I devoured this book. The writing was so true to the characters and so wonderful, that I couldn’t put this down.

I’ve been reading a lot of books lately about depression, suicide, and loss. This one had a different feel to it, though. In a lot of books I’ve read dealing with these issues, only one of the main characters is broken, while the others have to deal with that character’s sadness. In this book, though, we have two main characters who have suffered. In fact, they officially meet while they’re attempting to jump off of the school’s bell tower. Violet has suffered the loss of her sister and Finch suffers generally, mainly through his family and bullying at school. How these two characters were written were so beautiful and realistic that they actually broke my heart when they were in pain. I’m still shocked about this, and I’ve had to sleep on this book. Not at all because it was bad, it’s every good adjective I could ever attach to a book, honestly. It was just a lot to take in.

2. I think I wrote on Goodreads at one point, “I don’t think I’ve ever loved a main character more than I love Theodore Finch.”

Theodore Finch is incredible. I do not say he is incredibly written, because in my mind, he is real. He is incredible. His outlook on life is so wonderful and refreshing that it is so sad to see how he suffers. While he and Violet are doing their geography project (wandering through the interesting places of Indiana) they get to know and love each other: the “freak” of the school and the popular, damaged girl who is seemingly out of his league. Finch is bullied a lot, and that alone is enough to break your heart – along with mine – especially when you get to know him. You want to be his best friend, you want to protect him. There is nothing left I can say to convince you you’re going to love Finch – you’ll just have to read the book when it releases, because I am positive you’ll feel the same way.

3. Our other main character, Violet, bothered me at first. But as she starts to love Finch, she becomes a much better person.

When we first meet Violet, she is steeped in grief. Her sister has died in a car accident that she survived, and she continues to use her “Extenuating Circumstances” to get out of doing assignments. She used to love writing, but she feels like the words are gone. I understand that loss, but what bothered me was that both she and her family wanted to hang onto their grief and loss instead of trying to let go and move on with life. They wanted to dwell in their darkness seemingly forever – until Finch. When Violet starts to see Finch, she becomes better. This isn’t a change that happens purposefully. Violet changes because she learns she can actually be happy. After she figures that out, she changed my mind about her. She is a wonderful person, who is caught in the midst of first love and loss and grief, but also happiness. I ended up loving her by the end.

4. This book has strong and correct opinions on that of mental health and the stigma that comes with it.

I highlighted one quote in this book, because I thought it sums up perfectly how we as “survivors of suicide” deal (or try to deal) with those who have left us. This is said by the school counselor: “We can’t always see what others don’t want us to. Especially when they go to great lengths to hide it.” I have felt guilty for a friend’s mental illness before. I have felt that this is my fault and that if I had done more, they could have survived. If I could have heard that sentence then, maybe my healing process would have been shorter. This book is one powerful statement on that of mental health of teenagers – and anyone for that matter – and how we can help, instead of stigmatize this disease. Reading the section before the acknowledgements is a seriously important part of this book, because Niven shows us how absolutely personal this book is to her. You need to read that, too, because it brings every event here into a new light.

5. I’ve never been that interested in Indiana. I’ve been there before, but mostly I thought it was just flat and boring. All of the places Finch and Violet visit are real, though. And now I kind of want to see the things they saw.

So, Indiana is seriously boring. Especially coming from a place where I live (Las Vegas: city of mountains and bright lights). I went to Indiana to visit a guy I was dating who lived there. Mostly, I was bored stuck inside when it snowed, and it was really flat. Corn everywhere. I’m originally from Nebraska and I kept uttering to my then-boyfriend, “huh. Looks just like Nebraska.” But the places that Violet and Finch visit for their project sound SO. FUN. The book mobiles were my favorite, but I really think I’d like to visit them all. I saw in the ARC that this has been optioned for film, so I’m sure at some point, Indiana will make Finch and Violet tours of the state. I would be so in.

OVERALL: FIVE STARS!!! I was so, so happy with this book. Usually, I hate synopses starting with, “for fans of [insert popular book here]!” However, this kind of intrigued me because the synopsis said, “For fans of Eleanor and Park and The Fault in Our Stars.” Those are two very different stories that I loved. I was very pleasantly satisfied and also wrecked when I finished this. I had to sleep on this for a night before I even attempted a review, or I would tell you absolutely everything. This book comes out on January 6, 2015 so click the link below to pre-order!

Click to Pre-Order!

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