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.*
I used to tend to avoid popular books because I was always disappointed when they didn’t live up to the hype surrounding them. However, 2015 has produced enough amazing books to change that for me, and this is one of them. People call ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES a cross between ELEANOR & PARK and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, a very apt description. Instead of cancer, though, this book deals with mental illness and the impact it has on both the person suffering and those close to them.
It is told from two different perspectives, alternating between Finch and Violet’s thoughts. This is an extremely powerful narrative method because readers are able to see both sides of the coin at once. When I was reading through Violet’s sections I was able to be carried off into this perfect fairy tale, to fall slowly in love with Finch without asking too many questions. It was hard to tell that anything was wrong when seeing through her eyes. But when it switched back to Finch’s point of view, I was pulled back into reality, forced to ask the serious questions, to analyze the state of his mind, to wonder if this is all real or if Violet–and the reader– is falling in love with a lie.
One of the many things I really loved about this book is that they didn’t fall in love right away. Violet wasn’t immediately swept off her feet the way Hazel was in TFIOS. It was a slow, persistent process for Finch that did not come from a place of creepiness or harassment as some reviews of the book suggest. He was checking in on her the way no one had ever really checked in on him and while it may have come off a little strong at times, I think it was ultimately a very sweet gesture. It turns out she needed more of a shove than the gentle nudges she was getting from her family.
There are really important messages in here about mental illness and the ways of dealing with it, of helping those who are suffering. The thing I like the most about this book, I think, is that there is no lesson, no slap on the wrist. There’s no moral of the story: If only you had done this, that might not have happened. There is no one solution fits all when it comes to dealing with diseases of the mind and the “survivors” cannot take the blame for anything that happens. There is only so much a person can do to help.
The author also points out how hurtful labels can be, whether they come in the form of medical diagnoses or words used by a bully (another topic addressed in the book). A person is more than a collection of words; they are more than a freak, moody, depressed, angry, bipolar, etc. And diseases of the mind need to be taken just as seriously as the flu or cancer. A suicidal manic depressive deserves flowers just as much as a cancer victim.
I highly recommend this book for both teens and adults alike, as it offers some really valuable insight to mental illness. Brava, Jennifer Niven.
*Synopsis and cover photo from Amazon.com.