Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Year published: 2015
Why I read it: I read about it on a blog about new releases and the themes interested me.
Blurb: 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.
Rating: Would definitely re-read.
– Mental health is one of my favourite things to read about because it opens up so many doors into interesting storytelling. Bipolar, depression, suicide…all of these are really complex and, I think, hard to really understand unless you have experienced it yourself or by proxy, and I think that the way Niven opened up a door into the minds of Violet and Finch – Finch in particular – gave me a better understanding of their struggles.
– I read the book knowing parts of what would happen at the end, and I think that definitely coloured the way I interpreted the story. Mostly it made me really sad that someone with as much life and love and creativity as Finch could still find himself in a world he didn’t want to be in. The book was written so that it would have felt cheap to not end it the way it did, but I still kept hoping that everything would work itself out.
– In addition to really appreciating how the book ended the way it did, I also really appreciated Violet’s response to it. She was angry, sad, resentful and guilty. She was able to say both ‘I’ll never forgive you’ and ‘I love you’. Long story short, I liked that the book addressed the pain of being a survivor of suicide. Addressed being the person left behind, who understands that the person who died felt hopeless, but also feels angry for being left alone. Suicide is complicated and sad and stigmatised, and I think this book really managed to capture all of those things at once without contradicting itself.
– As for the writing, I really loved how Niven writes. I loved the quotations, I loved the post its and the way she wrote the character’s inner thoughts. Although I tend to not like the use of alternating first person perspectives in novels, I think that Niven managed to clearly distinguish between the two characters and their way of thinking and speaking in a way that made it compelling.
It is definitely a book worth reading.