All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – has been compared to The Fault in our Stars by many people. But it is not. This book shows how resilient and fragile teenagers are. A book that seriously addresses: suicide, bipolar and depression. Every page your turn in this book could be a moment of someone’s real life and that is never forgotten throughout. If you are used to Disney endings this is not a book for you.
When popular girl Violet and Finch the class ‘freak’ meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, both are forever changed. However, as their love and friendship grows Violet’s world brightens and Finch’s struggle against the ‘asleep’, his mental illness which finally leads to a sorrowful end.
They are joined together after Filch nominates Violet to be his project partner for their US Geography class. Filch helps Violet embrace life again after her sister’s accident and Violet gives Filch moments to he will never forget. As their relationship grows it is not all about love, it is about understanding, being brave, finding happy moments, living life in the present, family drama, loss and grief, exploring the world around them, school and labels.
All The Bright Places: Love
My only slight glitch with this book – and I wish I could ask Jennifer – well actually I did on Twitter.
I feel that the romantic love between the two characters of Finch and Violet was an extra bonus. Their love and understanding of each other could just have easily worked and been heart breaking if they were platonic friends. I guess, that would have been a twist on every other YA that has two characters, boy and girl who fall in love.
But this is not a fault, the story is beautiful. More than just a story of teenage love. It’s about two people who are lost and are found, who progress and regress in real time and through real life events.
Everything that Jennifer writes has poured from her heart, her experience and pain. That is evident when you read this book.
Finch’s character is fascinating to me. He’s captivating and witty, he is interesting and quirky – he tries on different personas and rocks them hard but there is this ache inside him, this hole and it terrifies him and despite his personas it’s easy to understand he is troubled.
Although I could empathise with Violet throughout the book – I eventually became frustrated with her. I didn’t like that she let people believe she saved Filch. I wonder where the story would have led us if Violet had been honest about Filch. I know she made Filch feel special but I can’t help but think, at what cost?
All The Bright Places: Dual Narrative
I loved that there was a dual narrative in this book. I have previously spoken about this style of narration and how many fail to pull it off. This was not the case for Jennifer. The character each had their own story, a life to share seperate from the life they lived and created together through their wondering project for school. Their voices distinctive and individualistic, edgy and complimentary to each other urging pages to be turned and eyes to move faster and read.
Not being enough
They change each other but this doesn’t mean everything falls perfectly into place. For so long it has become my pet hate when books romanticise serious issues like cancer or suicide etc.
That did not happen here. Despite the changes they made in each other Violet didn’t save Finch and that wasn’t because she was not enough. It was because she could not save him, nobody could understand the suffering he went through – tortured by his own mind. And this happens in real life. So yes, I am very sad he’s gone but to be saved by Violet would dilute the truth about people who do die from these causes.
The way Violet picked herself up after Finch’s death was honourable. She was brave and finished their project. I would like to believe that she realised eventually that Finch dying was in no way her fault. It was not about her being enough or not. She changed Finch but she could not save him and she did all that she could to help and sometimes that is all she could do. Sitting in a heap of grief for loss would have made her the way Finch found Violet after her sister’s death and that would have been tragic to see the Finch’s Violet return to her dull, lifeless self.
The seriousness of suicide
I read a review for this book a few days ago that said this book did not seriously enough address the theme of suicide. That a lot was allowed to slip through the cracks and wasn’t addressed properly.
I disagree, this book portrayed every moment as I would imagine it to happen in real life. As a society we often shy away from acknowledging that something could be wrong with us and with people in our family. We label things but that doesn’t necessarily explain the situation.
I believe that there is still so much stigma around the subject of suicide. We just don’t know how to talk about it or confront it. More should be done and needs to be done.
Suicide and accident
I think there is a reason for Jennifer killing Violet’s sister at the beginning of the book and then Filch’s suicide at the end. The two deaths contrast with each other and I honestly believe this must have been intentional. I believe Jennifer Niven raises many questions about suicide that people usually feel uncomfortable to ask. Addressing the stigma that is attached to this term. I feel like Niven, provides a refreshing perspective on death by suicide concluding that death in all forms is still death. The loss of any human life is wrong and we should not automatically become less empathetic with suicidal incidents. Death by suicide is still a loss of life.
I think this is a fantastic read, it adds depth to the YA genre. Though she had written books before this was Jennifer Niven’s first YA book and she had really made her mark. I’m excited to see what becomes of this book as I film discussions are in the process. I look forward to more amazing stories by Jen!
What did you guys think?