All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven Review

Started: March 26, 2016

Finished: March 29, 2016

Rating: 5 stars

Summary (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.


 

How do you beat your built-in ending?

All the Bright Places was a fantastic book. I could hardly put it down, and when I finished it, I wished I hadn’t finished because I wanted it to keep going.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: this story hurt. A lot.

I could tell what was going to happen from about a third of the way in, and I did not want anything to happen to anyone in this story. Sadly, that’s the pain of being a reader.

This book, while being painful and fantastic, was simply beautiful. A beautiful cover, beautiful writing, and beautiful characters. I was impressed by the quality of the writing, and how Jennifer Niven handled all of the issues that she presented in this novel. She handled issues such as mental illness and the stigma surrounding it, child abuse, and grief in a seamless way that made it feel like everything fit together.

The story was flawless to me. I couldn’t stop myself from reading just so I could find out what happened on the next page. I was on edge most of the time because I just had no idea what to expect from any of the characters, and that is what makes a perfect story for me.

Speaking of the characters, they were a big part of what made this book so wonderful. They were real, imperfect, and they felt like real teenagers. As I said before, they were beautifully written and they were so well-characterized that at times I forgot that I wasn’t reading about real people. Violet and Finch’s relationship was wonderful and felt real to me, and that was a big part of this book’s appeal.

Now, let’s talk about my favorite part of this book: Theodore Finch.

Finch, for me, was what a YA protagonist should be. He was raw, real, and relevant. Finch as a character was instantly lovable. I fell for him hard and fast, and his character was just all-encompassing for me. But that’s not what made him my favorite part of the book.

Theodore Finch as a representation of the stigma around mental illness made him my favorite part. It is clear almost from the start that Finch has a mental illness that he doesn’t know about. All he knows is that sometimes he’s “Awake” and sometimes he’s “Asleep”. We don’t find out until much later what the illness actually is. But Finch himself puts so much stigma around his illness, and those around him put even more around it by calling him “Theodore Freak”. This book, through Finch, shows how dangerous this stigma can be, and how dangerous it is to feel that there is a removal of choice.

Overall, I loved this book. It was different, and special, and real to me. I would recommend this to any fan of contemporary YA because this is one of the best ones I’ve read in a long time.


 

NEXT READ: We Were Liars by e. lockhart

 

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