The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning! 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. This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Gayle Forman, Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.
All the Bright PlacesFeaturedHot
All the Bright Places is heartbreaking, poignant, funny and heartfelt. It’s told in two POVs. Finch and Violet. Violet and Finch. Two different personalities brought together by one incident.
The characters of the story are very interesting to read. They’re multidimensional and it’s nice to see them grow. Theodore Finch was kind of this happy-go-lucky guy. He’s pretty adventurous, sassy, smart, gentle, adorable, funny guy but almost everyone calls him Theodore Freak. Violet Markey used to be a cheerleader and a student council officer. She used to be a lot of things but everything changed since Eleanor died in the accident. She became quiet, shy and a bit awkward when it comes to people and crowds but she learned to be herself again and be comfortable with others in the company of Finch.
This book is cruel because it made me cry lots of tears. But I tell you this, it’s written beautifully. It’s raw, relatable and brutally honest and I love it. It deals about grief and losing someone in the process. It deals about mental illness, which is a very sensitive topic and I picked up a of new angles to look at it. This book also deals about friendship, family and romance; about finding oneself and starting over; about happiness and all the bright places; about living your life the way you want to live.
I guess I cried all my feels for this book because I’m out of words. In case you haven’t read this yet, please do.
Full disclosure: As someone who spent a scary number of their teen years coping with the hell of depression and suicidal ideation, there was absolutely no way I could look at this sort of subject matter from a purely unbiased standpoint. My background is, however, a large part of the reason I picked up this book—to see how it would be represented and handled. I was hopeful it would be the kind of book I wished would have existed at a formative time when I went to books for escape and perspective. Instead, I found a book I was grateful my younger self never encountered.
That’s not to say it was a poorly written book—quite to the contrary. My rating ultimately reflects both my personal enjoyment level and my concerns over the messages the story seems to be sending to the more vulnerable of the teen population (be this intentional or not.)
With all this in mind, I’ll endeavor to explain…
In A Nutshell:
Erratic-yet-vivacious Theodore Finch and grieving popular girl, Violet Markey, have little in common and no reason to cross paths. Until one fateful day they do—both while standing atop the same tower, contemplating the idea of jumping off. After Finch more or less talks Violet down, he immediately nurses a fascination with her. Violet rebuffs his interest consistently at first. But then, a geography assignment forces them together as partners on a hunt for noteworthy places within their home state. The two begin to find common ground in spouting poetry, along with a growing mutual attraction. As Violet begins to more effectively mourn the death of her older sister, Finch begins a downward spiral into depths he feels powerless to escape.
About The Blurb:
I don’t find the comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars to be justified, beyond the attempted sob-fest tragedy aspects. And I can only find the Eleanor and Park contrast fitting on the very basic level of the characters in question coming from significantly different social/domestic backgrounds. The writing itself doesn’t closely resemble either John Green or Rainbow Rowell, in this reader’s opinion.
What I Liked:
The story is told in first-person POV, alternating back and forth between Violet and Finch in a way that worked well for this type of storytelling. The prose is strong and stands with thoughtful cadence, while still setting itself apart. Niven’s conveyance of emotion is largely effectual, sometimes pleasing in its floweriness. The parallels some draw to this book and 13 Reasons Why are much more warranted—although the tone and ending impressions belong in different literary zip codes.
Finch’s obsessive contemplations on ways to off himself, and half-hearted dabbling attempts, all felt eerily spot-on. As did his wild swings from mania to depression—and the subsequent affect it had on his waffling sense of identity.
I also appreciated the countdown symmetry. Considering the subject material, it was unique and potent to have one main character counting down and the other one counting up throughout the story.
What Didn’t Work For Me:
Finch is intelligent, dynamic, and charismatically manipulative. He is, by leaps and bounds, the most memorable and interesting character—easily eclipsing Violet to the point of obscurity. He’s also a borderline stalker who, once fixated on Violet, pursues her to a point worthy of a restraining order. (The message here seems to be that if a guy refuses to respect your blatantly stated wishes, or your personal space, persistently enough—you should just give in.) As a result, the romance is uncomfortable—not only because of Finch’s pushy and obsessive behavioral patterns, but because it often comes across as romanticizing mental illness.
In no way am I contesting the portrayal of mental illness presented in this story. It’s the sense of glamorizing said illness that sat increasingly wrong with this reader.
All of the available adults in this book were either woefully uncaring, or useless—devoid of depth and leaving the unfortunate impression that grown-ups can’t be trusted with issues of teen mental health. While I admit it’s wholly believable that a number of adults wouldn’t know how to handle this sort of situation, the idea of leaving teen readers with so little hope of aid from that realm left this reader deeply unsettled.
Content Note: While some value is placed on the main female character’s virginity, and the eventual sex scenes are non-graphic, there is an underlying casualness and lack of concern (or mention) over contraception. And despite the “hero’s” allusions to prior promiscuity, no concern or thought is given to STD testing. Coarse language is moderate in usage, and generally within context—often believably proportional to Finch’s flights of personality. While the hopelessness of the takeaway is very concerning, the author does at least reference sources for seeking help at the very end… assuming readers are mindful enough to read on past the ending.
While I can see how this book may appeal to John Green fans looking for an emotional roller coaster, I can’t in good conscience recommend this book to teens who may be actively combating issues with severe mental illness.
"When we're in the act of wandering, we need to be present, not watching it through a lens."
Left Me Wanting More: Violet wasn’t as interesting as Finch. She’s wasn’t bad or anything, just nothing all that special. I honestly can’t even recall anything memorable about her. Also, once you learn about what Finch was dealing with, I really didn’t like the author’s take on it. I’ve been exposed to quite a bit of those who suffer from what he suffers from and I just didn’t like the direction the author went with it. I’m no expert on it, but it just didn’t click with me. Also, before finding out what the truth, I swear I thought he was suffering from something more grave than what it was. I know I’m being vague, but I don’t want to go into too much detail as I believe discovering Finch’s truth is part of the reading experience, so I don’t want to give anything away.
Final Verdict: I’ll admit I wasn’t as emotionally attached to this book as others, but that has more to do with the fact that I’m not an emotional person. The book itself does have its lulls, but overall, I really enjoyed it. It’s a story about two young people falling in love, one learning to live again, and the other coming to terms with his reality. I think it was very meaningful and realistic, again, despite that one qualm I had about it.
I spent an entire day consumed by the lives of Theodore Finch and Violet (Ultraviolet Remarkey-able) Markey. What I discovered upon reaching the end, was a story I would never forget. This book was exquisite and filled with all the magic and meaning life has to offer. The dual points of view captured the essence of humanity, creating equal empathy for both characters within the book. Violet and Finch seemed completely perfect in their imperfections and I was willing to wander and journey with them.
Much like Rainbow Rowell, Niven populated her world with characters that felt like real people. In this contemporary young adult story, real is just what I craved from the characters. Finch and Violet are flawed and broken. But who isn't? I think some of the best people I've ever known have been broken. I know I used to one of those people. Sometimes I feel that shattered girl from high school deep inside and it makes me sad to think about what might have happened if books hadn't saved her.
In high school, I was bookish and shy and too afraid to share my stories with anyone, let alone my peers. I fell out of a group of friends my sophomore year of high school and spent the next two trying to find my place in a world that didn't care much either way. It was painful. I'm not going to sugar coat it because that's not what Jennifer Niven does in her book. She has the courage to share the darkness that sometimes seeps into our lives. She does this by extracting unsettling moments and sharing them with the reader.
Through devouring this book and remembering my own young adult self, I discovered the power of forward motion. All the Bright Places is propelled by the forward motion of the characters, even when they feel stuck. And I think moving forward is sometimes the best thing we can hope for. I believe in the power of moving onward and as evidenced by this book, I believe Jennifer Niven does too.
For those of you who haven’t yet read this book, I think Jennifer Niven would want me to tell all of you that it gets better, that someone loves you, and that someone is thinking about you. But most of all, I think she’d want me to tell you about the importance of books and stories and what can happen when we share them with others.
I'm serious when I say books saved me. Books were my Theodore Finch. I'm so happy that this book exists and that someone out there might find this and decide that the shadows of life are only temporary. That somewhere there is light and that someday they will find their own bright place.
There were so many amazing words of wisdom throughout this book. It would be difficult to quote them all here. And I'm not sure the lines that I loved would feel the same to you. Maybe you need to read this book for yourself to find the words that might change you. Because that's what this book did for me. It changed me. It helped me believe in books again. It helped me find that sad, broken girl from high school and share her story with you.
I hope you'll take the time to read Jennifer Niven's book and to share your story with someone else. It just might be the thing that saves them.
P.S. Check out Germ Magazine, a space inspired by All the Bright Places, a place for you to start!
I don't want to write too many specifics regarding characters or plot because I think that when you read this you will form your own opinions and probably can express them better than I can at this point.
I will say that this was not the book I expected when I started it and I went through a variety of feelings as I was reading. All the Bright Places deals with a difficult subject in a true and honest way. I recommend that you discover this book on your own and form your own feelings about Finch, Violet and their families. I think Finch is a character that will stay with you long after you close the book.
I think this will make may people's "best of" list for 2015.
I don't like to cry, but this one had me in tears. This ending was fairly predictable, but I kept rooting for something to change the course of Finch's life.
I commend Jennifer for tackling such a tough subject.