Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Publication Date: January 6th, 2015
Twelfth-grader Theodore Finch sits perched on the sixth-story ledge of his school’s bell tower—arms extended, shouting, and welcoming his classmates to take in his death scene.
A boy who constantly contemplates death, Finch decides to live another day—if only to talk down popular Violet Markey who’s up on that ledge with him, thinking about her own jump.
Thrust together by a geography project, Violet and Finch set off to discover Indiana’s wonders. All while Finch focuses on saving Violet from her depression, rather than himself.
Despite the title, Jennifer Niven’s first young adult novel All the Bright Places isn’t necessarily a happy book. Anyone who is triggered by mental illness and suicide should proceed with caution when reading this book.
All the Bright Places switches point of view between the two teens, Finch and Violet.
I really loved Finch as a character. While he is clearly struggling with mental illness, it took me a little while to understand what exactly was going on with him. He describes it in a unique way, saying he goes from periods of being asleep followed by a struggle to stay awake. This causes him to miss long periods of school, and his peers label him a “freak.”
But Finch just brushes them off, playing into the stereotype and trying out different personas. It is hinted at in the book that he is possibly bipolar, although he proclaims that he is not “a problem. Not a diagnosis. Not an illness. Not something to be rescued. I’m a person.” I thought Finch was charismatic, kooky, creative, and spontaneous and just really enjoyed his chapters.
In turn, Violet’s depression stems from the loss of her sister in a car crash about a year earlier. The duo’s physical journey around Indiana was quirky and fun to read, but even more important is how wandering with Finch impacts Violet’s psychological journey to regaining some sense of self after the tragedy.
The book started off a little slow for me, but eventually I was hooked. And left an emotional wreck but the end. Not only is All the Bright Places a beautifully crafted, but it raises awareness about mental illness, the stigma behind it, and the importance of taking action if a loved one refuses help.
You can find All the Bright Places on Amazon. Give it a read and let me know what you think in the comments. Plus leave recommendations for my next book!