Okay, so it took me a few days to gather my thoughts together about this book. Initially, I wasn’t feeling any of this. I couldn’t connect to the characters, couldn’t discern what were actually metaphors or figurative language even as I progressed toward the halfway point.
Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Release date: January 6, 2015
Genre: Young adult, contemporary, romance
Length: 378 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) “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.”
Truthfully, a review for this book is hard to write. I’ve been in Finch’s place before. No, I don’t have bipolar disorder and while I was never clinically diagnosed with depression, I struggled with it for many years in my late teens and early 20s. So, in a sense, I can get where Finch is coming from but my main concern is I think a lot of what’s going on here has deeper roots and can be linked back to what happened between Finch’s parents and how they were. To me, they were practically non-existent. Yes, I get they were physically there but emotionally, no–at least, not in the way Violet’s parents were for her. Finch makes various references about how hard it is for his single mother and his two siblings. His dad, on the other hand–well, I really think it started there. Both parents are distant, detached, and neither seemed at all willing to pay attention to Finch.
Cue Violet, I suppose.
Violet lost her older sister, Eleanor, in a car accident some months ago. They ran a blog together but after the accident, Violet sort of shut down and the blog became nothing. That is, until Violet and Finch are partnered up in a history class to work on a project. While Violet needs coaxing, Finch nearly runs with the project full force, and I can appreciate his exuberance and desire to share these things with Violet.
I like how Finch is able to make Violet open up in ways she hadn’t been able to even to her best friends. It’s obvious that they needed each other in their different ways. What’s sad is that it wasn’t enough, and I think that’s where the heart of this story lies: the aftermath of unspeakable tragedy.Now, I don’t spoil it for those who haven’t read this book yet but I will say there are tough issues in this book that desperately need to be talked about more often and brought to light often as well. I applaud Niven for writing this book, truly I do, but read delicately and with eyes open and hearts ready to understand because not all stories have happy endings.