With a title like that, anyone who didn’t read the synopsis, or hasn’t heard at all about this book, could easily be fooled. Well, don’t. Places, yes, there are lots of them in this story. Bright? Maybe, in some way. However, first and foremost, you should be prepared. This is not a happy story. All the Bright Places is a book I kept on reading, feeling all the time like I was on the edge, the very edge of a cliff. One simple sound, one simple step would make me fall. I knew it would hurt, and it did. But I just kept on reading. Because, despite this heartgripping, stressful atmosphere in this book, I just had to take this step. And let myself fall.
“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 bump in the ground can feel higher than a bell tower if you’re standing next to the right person.”
Violet Markey is devastated by her sister’s death. She feels guilty, and she has a hard time keeping on living her life, pursuing her dreams. Theodore Finch has always been the freak of the school. Every single day, he thinks about death, and how to put an end to his life. But something always stops him. They meet on the bell tower of their school, as they are both contemplating the idea of letting themselves fall. A simple coincidence, fate, if you believe in this, brought them together at this same place, at the same time. And prevents them from jumping. From them, their adventures just start. From almost friends to more than that, they may just save each other every single day. But will that be enough? If I could sum up this book in one word, it would be, intense. If you’re looking for a light read, this is not it, not at all. Starting from the synopsis, I knew it may, or may not, be a story for me, because of all those intenses themes in it. Death, suicide, there are so many moments when I read this that I felt a little, unsettled. Only because I’m not used to it, and not because I didn’t like this book, or the story. Because I did. From the very first pages, I knew I would need some time to get used to this particular atmosphere, and, most of all, to the characters in this story.
Told in a dual point of view, All The Bright Places both tell the story of Violet and Finch. I admired the author’s writing and capacity to give life to complex characters, especially how they dealt with emotions. Every reaction, every thought seemed authentic to me, so I could easily flow through pages and, probably not relate, but absolutely understand what Violet was going through, and her way of reacting to every situation. She was an endearing character. However, I had a hard time with Theodore Finch. Let me tell you, this is one hell of a character. I didn’t read more than the synopsis before picking up this book, so I had no idea what Finch’s issue was, and I’m glad I didn’t. Understanding him, his thoughts and his actions, making sense of everything that is happening inside of his mind, is like trying to solve a 1000-pieces puzzle in two seconds, tops. I couldn’t do it. Charming and funny, Finch surely is. But there’s something off with him, and you realize that right from the start. I think that’s mainly what hooked me in this story, figuring out what was really happening. But when I did, damn.
“The thing I realize is, that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.”
Jennifer Niven did a great job of shaping those characters, but I think she perfectly managed to shape the world around them, too. Parents are present, in this story they all have a role. From the present, overwhelming parents, to the protective ones, to the careless ones, we get a pretty good panoramic of teenagers’ parents. I really appreciated this. The two main characters, Violet and Finch, are thought about a great deal, and I especially loved the little details we figured out about them during the whole story, making us feel more close to them in Violet’s part, and making us trying to get, or confuse us more, about what’s going on in Finch’s mind. Their relationship was off to a slow start, however. We got both characters’ point of view, but I admit that I waited for a little while before I got hooked on their adventures and their story. For me, those two point of views just made me deal with two different characters, encountering each other from time to time. About halfway there though, I felt more of a connexion, and I enjoyed it, way more.
All The Bright Places is dealing with important issues, depression, mental health… Jennifer Niven got through those themes with a certain brilliance, never letting emotions down and making a strong set of characters, with their flaws and unusual battles, but yet very touching. I’m not used to reading this kind of story, but I’m glad I did. I feel like I read about important issues, issues that must be aknowledged more. There are many passages that I still remember a week after ending this story, many beautiful quotes that still makes me think, from time to time. I think that’s what matters the most.
Did you read All The Bright Places? What did you think about it? If not, are you planning to read it? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!
Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places, Published by Knopf, January 6th 2015.
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.
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 Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven. (less)