Title: All The Bright Places (2015)
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Review: Violet Markey and Theodore Finch meet at one of the unlikeliest places possible: at the top of the bell tower. Both plagued by their own problems (Violet by the death of her older sister and Finch by, well, depression and other things), they find solace in each other. Over time, their relationship develops as they work on one of the most exciting geography projects I’ve ever stumbled upon: finding new, interesting places in their hometown of Indiana.
I’ve heard of All The Bright Places being similar to a John Green novel, and the premise is somewhat alike in some places with The Fault of Our Stars: two quirky teenagers (Violet and Theodore) bond over a literary figure (Virginia Woolf in this case). I didn’t really get that feeling from the writing style, though, which is good because (confession time) I’m not the biggest fan of Green’s writing.
“Listen, I’m the freak. I’m the weirdo. I’m the troublemaker. I start fights. I let people down. Don’t make Finch mad, whatever you do. Oh, there he goes again, in one of his moods. Moody Finch. Angry Finch. Unpredictable Finch. Crazy Finch. But I’m not a compilation of symptoms. Not a casualty of shitty parents and an even shittier chemical makeup. Not a problem. Not a diagnosis. Not an illness. Not something to be rescued. I’m a person.”
Instead, All The Bright Places is one of those books where I actually enjoyed that the story were told from Theodore’s and Violet’s points of view, which is very rare as I often feel like most stories aren’t fit to be told from two perspectives. Both these characters, however, have become very dear to me in the short time I spent with them and I loved hearing their sides of the story, whether it’s by themselves or with each other.
Ultimately, Finch is the highlight of the novel for me. He’s a little bit reckless and all-around charming, and he basically lives on his own wavelength. There are so many different parts to him that he’s extremely, extremely well-characterised, so realistic in his contradictions that I absolutely love him.
“It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”
All The Bright Places tackles with some very serious issues, and at times, it can get a bit dark. Niven, however, deals with grief, depression and death in a very sensitive, respectful way, and some parts were very right-on in describing what it’s like to live with these things. I wish there are more books like this.
The ending is bittersweet. I personally like it and don’t like it at the same time, but I’ll say no more to avoid spoilers for those who have yet to read it… in which case, please do, because overall it’s a really great book and I’d love to trade thoughts with you!
May 19, 2016: Lowering my rating from 5 stars to 4 – it just didn’t warrant the full score when I compare it to my other five-star picks.