All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – Review

March 6, 2015 All-Time Favorites, Reviews 15 ★★★★★

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – ReviewAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Published by Random House Children's Books on 1/6/15
Genres: Death & Dying, Depression & Mental Illness, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Source: Library
My content rating: Very Mature YA (Mature themes like suicide, Sex)
My rating:
5 Stars

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.

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!
 
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.

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My Take

All the Bright Places is a difficult but intensely powerful read. This is not the type of book that will leave you feeling satisfied or refreshed. It will leave you feeling gutted and a bit broken, but also uplifted in an odd sort of way. I chose to read this on my birthday because I wanted to read something amazing that day – I got what I wanted, but I also spent that night sobbing. You have been warned.

The book starts out with Finch and Violet meeting – on a ledge. It was obvious right from the start that these characters were going to have issues. It was even a little bit obvious where things were heading. But the journey was incredibly bittersweet.

This book hit me in a lot of incredibly personal ways, which is probably why I adored it so much. I can’t even begin to go through all of the ways that the book affected me because they’re a little too intense and personal, but I will just say that the book spoke to my fears and dreams, memories of the past and hopes for the future. It got me thinking, which is the absolute best kind of book!

What I loved:

  • Finch. Finch is strangely upbeat for a boy who thinks about killing himself all the time. His view of the world is unique, enjoyable and often manic. There was something about Finch that just made me love him. Maybe it was because I could see pieces of my own son in him – not that my son suffers from depression, but he is a little offbeat and quirky. People don’t always get him, and that’s totally fine with him (most of the time) – which is exactly like Finch. Finch definitely marches to the beat of a different drummer, so to speak. Reading this book and getting to know Finch was really amazing and intense for me because it made me truly appreciate my own son’s unique view of the world. As a parent it’s nearly impossible not to want your child to “fit in” and to at least somewhat conform to some sort of mold – it’s hard to see your child get picked on for being different and even harder to let it go and not urge that child to change in small ways to make their own life easier. When I read this book, seeing the world through Finch’s eyes, I saw both the joy and pain of Finch being just who he was. As a reader, I was rooting for Finch to hold onto his uniqueness and his individuality and still win out against the darkness that threatened to swallow him sometimes. Which brings me to the other side to Finch …
  • Mental illness dealt with well and seriously. While Finch was fun and unique, he was also suffering in a lot of ways. Not only were his circumstances and his family life less than ideal, but he struggled to process those circumstances because he suffered from a true mental illness. No one in Finch’s life wanted to face that he wasn’t well – so they ignored the signs of his illness. This book really brings this to light – how we can sometimes ignore the evidence of mental illness purely out of denial and we can fail. Fail to help someone who is crying out for help. Fail to see the truth that is right in front of us. Mental illness is real and there is no shame in getting help for it.
  • Violet and Finch. Violet had her own pain to contend with in this book – she was dealing with the loss of her sister and her inability to move on with her life. Finch gets Violet to finally open up and see the world around her – to see life around her. Finch and Violet’s relationship develops slowly, allowing a deep bond to form between them that felt completely natural and believable. I loved these two together! I also loved their adventures together as they explored their state – which could have been boring, but they made it completely engrossing and entertaining.

The negatives:

  • Not much. Honestly, I’m trying to think about the things I didn’t like about this book and I just can’t even focus on them. I’m sure there were some small things, but they were completely overwhelmed by the intensity of the feelings that this book brought out, and my love of the characters and the romance.

Like I said, this book isn’t an easy read, but it is intense in amazing ways! I highly recommend it!! I give this book 5/5 stars.

About the Author

Jennifer NivenBy the time I was ten, I had already written numerous songs, a poem for Parker Stevenson (“If there were a Miss America for men, You would surely win”), two autobiographies (All About Me and My Life in Indiana: I Will Never Be Happy Again), a Christmas story, several picture books (which I illustrated myself) featuring the Doodle Bugs from Outer Space, a play about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s sister entitled Blindness Strikes Mary, a series of prison mysteries, a collection of short stories featuring me as the main character (an internationally famous rock star detective), and a partially finished novel about Vietnam. I was also an excellent speller from a very early age.

In 2000, I started writing full-time, and I haven’t stopped… I’ve written eight books (two of those are forthcoming), and when I’m not working on the ninth, I’m contributing to my web magazine, Germ, thinking up new books, and dabbling in TV. I am always writing.

Author Links:
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15 Responses to “All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – Review”

  1. Regina

    Oh, man. I won this book from a giveaway and have been really eager to read it especially after all of the wonderful things I have been hearing about it. Just not sure I’m ready to visit that broken place, you know what I mean? Thank for your insightful review. I will probably read ATBP sometime in April or May when I can sit outside and absorb some vitamin D to displace some of the sadness this book might bring. 🙂

    • Nicole

      Ha! Yes, that might be a good idea. You will definitely need something to displace sadness – but it’s an amazing book, so I hope you love it!

  2. Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

    Oh, this book was so amazing. You know, it is funny how being a mom really changes your reading perspectives, because I have thought the same things about books (not this one, my kids are a little young for these particular issues, but issues in general), about worrying about my kids having to go through some of these topics. And this WAS handled so, so well. I mean, my heart is still so very broken, but I feel like a better person for having read this story, so that means that Jennifer Niven certainly did her job! Lovely review!

    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight recently posted: Review: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
    • Nicole

      This is so totally true. I read these types of quirky characters with a completely different perspective now. As a mom, I feel like it’s such a fine line – wanting our kids to socialize well and get along with others, but not wanting to give them the message that who they are is wrong or bad. It’s a daily struggle for me and I honestly feel like reading YA books with characters like these has helped me.

    • Nicole

      I can totally see that perspective (though I would argue that the exact opposite could also be said for this book – hopefully you know what I mean without me saying more since I don’t want to put spoilers in comments). I DO think that this is the type of book that is going to hit people in different ways because the topic is so sensitive and personal. I have total respect for anyone who didn’t love it, but I definitely did! 🙂

  3. Karen G.

    Thanks for the post and the introduction to this book. I love when I book can touch you in very personal and emotional ways, it sounds amazing. I will have to check it out and recommend to a few people I know will be interested. 🙂

    • Nicole

      Yes, I love this too – this is definitely one of those books that will everyone will respond to differently based on their own life experiences and circumstances.

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