Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

allthebrightplaceSource: Purchased
Publisher: Knopf
Series: –
Edition: Hardcover 388 Pages
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Purchase: Amazon  / Barnes & Noble /Book Depository*
*I receive a small monetary kickback from Amazon purchases
Rating: 5/5

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.

All the Bright Places is a book I was extremely excited for. It deals with a subject I live on a daily basis, depression. I bought this a week after it came out…and I just finished it almost at the end of April. Why did it take me so long? Fear. About half way through the book I started to realize that this was getting way too real and  I had to keep stepping away from it every couple of chapters. But I am glad I finished it, I’m glad I bought it, and I’m glad all of those moments I had to take time to breathe deeply happened.

As I sit here trying to write this review I realize I have so much to say about this book…and yet I don’t have the words to express it properly. I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot and risk ruining it for you, and that limits me to what I can put. I will say this though, when it comes to depression this book gets it right. The feelings that Finch describes, the way he puts it into words…Mental illness is such a solitary thing. There are millions out that suffer that weight and yet you feel like the only one, so to have it right there in book form, written in a way you understand and isn’t some mock up stereotype, it’s both liberating and crushing all at the same time. I think that aspect of the story is incredibly well done and handled in a real and respectful way. In fact I feel that the entire book did a good job at being as rooted in reality as possible. We get to see the typical teen existence in high school with the cliques, bullying, ostracizing, and pressure. We even get a respectful inclusion of sex.

As sad as I’ve now made the book sound (sorry) it is actually an incredibly hopeful story, full of chapters that made me want to get out and wander. It inspires me to go see places that I’ve never heard of simply because I can. Violet starts the story in the same way Finch does, on a ledge of the bell tower, and their stories remain entangled with each other till the end. Violet is struggling to live under the weight of her sister’s death, and Finch becomes her bright spot and she becomes his. I loved the way Finch supports Violet and gets her to move forward, I love their moments together and how utterly optimistic they could be, those parts of the story made my heart sing.

I do realize that this review is probably one of the worst I’ve ever written. It’s scattered and forced, and could do with some focus…but honestly I just don’t know to put into words my love of All the Bright Places. The portrayals of depression and bipolar disorder are incredibly relatable, and written in a way that I think could very well impart some understanding and empathy to those without mental illness. As I said before this book deals with the stigmas that come with being ‘different’ and I think that YA books like this will be one of the tools to help break those stigmas a part.

I’m leaving this book with a full 5 stars for it’s beautiful story and for being a real conversation starter.

5 stars

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4 Responses to Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

  1. I don’t think this review is awful at all, Michelle. Give yourself more credit. I loved reading it. Like you, I think I would be afraid to read this book too. Reading books about depression does give you that mixed feeling of both relating so much and relating too much. I’m glad that it still has that hopeful aspect though, and I do like books where they wander. I think I would definitely grab a copy of this book when I can

  2. YES. I absolutely loved this book and it’s real portrayal of mental illness and teenage life, it was really relatable and gave all the FEELS. Like Francine, I think it was a really wonderful review that showed how much of an impact it gave you. Wonderful review!

  3. This review is perfect. I love how you describe Finch. Do not put yourself down in this instance because it’s so hard to describe this book without ruining the plot line and giving aways it’s secrets. I wasn’t expecting my feelings to be so crazy when I read this. I could not put this down. I don’t suffer from Depression, but have been around it all my life and see what it does to people in my family. I agree this book gives hope, especially with the wanderings. The message is clear. GREAT REVIEW!

  4. Hmm you’ve got me actually considering a contemporary YA novel an amazing accomplishment knowing I’m almost strictly a sff reader.

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