Title: All The Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Published by: Knopf Publishing Group
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
In-Series/Stand Alone: Stand Alone
“I was just sitting there, on the railing. I didn’t come up here to — you know. Jump.”
“Let me ask you something. Do you think there’s such a thing as a perfect day?”
“A perfect day. Start to finish. When nothing terrible or sad or ordinary happens. Do you think it’s possible?”
“I don’t know.”
“Have you ever had one?”
“I never had one either, but I’m looking for it.”
“Thank you, Theodore Finch. For saving me. If you ever tell anyone about this, I’ll kill you.”
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might die, and every day he also searches for — and manages to find — something to keep him here, and alive, and awake.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting down the days until graduation, when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school — six stories above the ground — it’s unclear who saves whom. And when the unlikely pair teams up on a class project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, they go, as Finch says, where the road takes them: the grand, the small, the bizarre, the beautiful, the ugly, the surprising — just like life.
Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself — a bold, funny, live-out-loud guy, who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet forgets to count away the days and starts living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
This is a heart-wrenching, unflinching story of love-shared, life lived, and two teens who find one another while standing on the edge.
I first came across All The Bright Places when watching YouTuber Zoella‘s video titled “June Favorites.” She expressed how beautiful the book was, and I decided to do a little search on Goodreads to find out more about the novel. I noticed that a lot of reviews compared it to Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, and because those are two of my all-time favorite contemporaries, I thought, why not.
After finishing the novel last night though, I realized that this book is a work of art on its own. It stands out from the others. It’s it’s own individual masterpiece. I became a fan of Jennifer Niven’s writing the moment I started to read — she has this way of captivating you with her words and her characters, and I honestly could not put the book down until I’d read half of it in one sitting.
This novel touches on death, depression, mental illness, and suicide — all topics that are almost taboo because a lot of people feel uncomfortable going in-depth and talking about it. But they are all real things that real people deal with every day, and it’s important to bring light to that — which is exactly what this novel does, in a gripping, heart-wrenching and eye opening way.
This is a story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die. They meet atop the bell tower of their high school one fateful day, both considering ending their lives. One out of pain, the other out of grief; and in the midst of permanently leaving this world, they save each other. These two teenagers, who couldn’t be more different, suddenly find themselves crossing paths, and are hurdled together in a project for US Geography, forcing them to spend time together as they wander through their provincial Indiana state, finding beauty where they never expected it would be. The project soon turns into something more, and the time they spend together begins to draw them closer. Violet, a girl who marks days off her calendar until she can finally move on and start over somewhere else, begins to live in the moment. She realizes there are things in this world worth fighting for, worth living for; and suddenly, despite the lingering grief from her sister’s sudden death, she finds her horizons expanding; the possibilities for her future endless and waiting. While her world grows, Theodore Finch’s world crumbles. He forces himself to stay awake, and here, and alive, so as not to become a prisoner in his own mind, where he cannot escape.
Violet and Finch’s story paints a picture of love, a symbol of hope, on a canvas of pain and darkness. “You are all the colors in one, at full brightness.” What really made me love these characters was their portrayal of them — they feel real, almost like they live inside each of us. They captured what it’s really like to be young, feeling a variety of emotions, sometimes all at once; and the confusion, anger, and heartache that sometimes comes with being a teenager.
Without giving too much away, I will say that this novel opened my eyes to mental illness and made me see it in a way I can’t say I did before. As Finch once says,
“The thing I know about bipolar disorder is that it’s a label. One you give crazy people. Labels like ‘bipolar’ say, this is why you are the way you are. This is who you are. They explain people away as illnesses.”
Reading that, all I could think was wow. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what that must feel like. Imagine you have depression, and that’s all you’re recognized for — “that depressed girl” or “that depressed guy.” Nobody takes the time to get to know you. You aren’t Laura, or Kate, or Michael, or Pete anymore. You’re Depression. You’re an illness. You’re a label.
I am so grateful this book was written, and geared toward the younger generation — because suicide and mental illness is something that has and needs to be discussed; it can’t be treated like a dirty little secret shoved away in the back of a closet.
I thought this novel ended beautifully. As heartbreaking as it was, that’s life — and the realistic portrayal of it is what makes this book so unique.
Every now and then, you’ll come across a book that will either change or alter your perspective on something. It’s almost like wearing stained glasses, and once you read that book, it’s like they’re clean again and you’re staring out at the world and it looks the same, but there’s something different about it — clarity. All The Bright Places, in all its clever, poetic and honest beauty is one of those books. It will stay with me forever.
“All because she smiled at me. But it was a damn good smile. A genuine one, which is hard to come by these days.”
“What if life could be this way? Only the happy parts, none of the terrible, not even the mildly unpleasant. What if we could just cut out the bad and keep the good? This is what I want to do with Violet – give her only the good, keep away the bad, so that good is all we ever have around us.”
“You make me lovely, and it’s so lovely to be lovely to the one I love.”
“The thing I realize is that it’s not what you take. It’s what you leave.”
“I know life well enough to know you can’t count on things staying around or standing still, no matter how much you want them to. You can’t stop people from dying. You can’t stop them from going away. You can’t stop yourself from going away either. I know myself well enough to know that no one else can keep you awake or keep you from sleeping.”
“We are all alone, trapped in these bodies and our own minds, and whatever company we have in this life is only fleeting and superficial.”
“I learned that there is good in this world, if you look hard enough for it. I learned that not everyone is disappointing, including me, and that a 1,257-foot bump in the ground can feel higher than a bell tower if you’re standing next to the right person.”
*Important Notice: “Often, mental and emotional illnesses go undiagnosed because the person suffering symptoms is too ashamed to speak up, or because their loved ones either fail to or choose not to recognize the signs. According to Mental Health America, an estimated 2.5 million Americans are known to have bipolar disorder, but the actual number is a good two to three times higher than that. As many as 80% of people with this illness go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. If you think something is wrong, speak up. You are not alone. It is not your fault. Help is out there.”
*Note: A film adaptation starring Elle Fanning as Violet Markey is currently in pre-production and will release in 2017. For more updates, follow Jennifer Niven’s twitter @jenniferniven or her instagram, @jenniferniven (seriously, guys. She’s so amazing, and she’s a total Supernatural nerd just like me 🙂 )
*DISCLAIMER* If you have not read this book yet, I’d really recommend not going through the comments section in case there’s a spoiler. You can always come back here later to discuss after you’ve read the book! (Or contact me if you want to talk about it beforehand)