TITLE- ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES
AUTHOR- JENNIFER NIVEN
GENRE- YOUNG ADULT, CONTEMPORARY
PUBLISHER-KNOPF PUBLISHING GROUP
If I had to describe this book in 2 words it would be ‘beautifully tragic’. It had a very Colleen Hoover meets John Green vibe, and the theme was slightly darker than I expected it to be, but I still loved the book.
It’s the tale of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die.
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.(source)
The first thing I want to discuss is the character of Theodore Finch. Since the book is from his point of view, you get to experience first hand what goes on in his mind, and it’s really fascinating. You know right from the get-go that he isn’t some regular guy, he doesn’t think or behave like other guys, something is different. Later they hint at bipolar disorder, but until then these “awake” and “asleep” phases of his life he talks about and the different versions he has of himself were a complete mystery, at least to me. Another thing about him is that he is extremely intelligent. Everything he does seems carefully calculated and deliberate yet at the same time confusing and uncontrolled and that, I think is the beauty of his character. It’s the fact that even after the book is over, you don’t fully understand him.
“Listen, I’m the freak. I’m the weirdo. I’m the troublemaker. I start fights. I let people down. Don’t make Finch mad, whatever you do. Oh, there he goes again, in one of his moods. Moody Finch. Angry Finch. Unpredictable Finch. Crazy Finch. But I’m not a compilation of symptoms. Not a casualty of shitty parents and an even shittier chemical makeup. Not a problem. Not a diagnosis. Not an illness. Not something to be rescued. I’m a person.”
Violet on the other hand, I felt was much easier to understand, she was almost relatable. After her sister’s accident she’s just been slightly lost and afraid to live again. She’s going through motions and counting days until she doesn’t have to anymore. On the outside she has a good life, but she’s closed herself off emotionally, in order to cope with grief.
Finch meets her on the ledge of a school balcony and saves her life, literally and metaphorically. He teaches her how to live again, and as cheesy as that sounds, it’s incredibly well written.
Important stuff that needs to be discussed-
- Mental illness– It’s a theme throughout the book. Suicidal tendencies. These “awake” and “asleep” phases, everything, no matter how big or small, points to some sort of psychological predicament. One thing I really liked though was how it explored the concept of people not understanding what they can’t see. Since mental illness may not have physical symptoms and it’s effects are not always visible, it’s difficult for people to understand, and thus anyone who is different, is called a ‘freak’ or other equally derogatory terms.
“It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”
- The importance of loved ones– I don’t know if this was an obvious theme or if I just picked it up because it resonates with me, but I feel like family and friends play a really important role, in someone’s life. Taking the example of Finch I feel like both his family and his friends to some extent gave up on him, and despite the fact that Finch didn’t want help from anyone I think it would’ve been nice if someone (apart from Violet) cared for him in a non-superficial way. He needed someone to ask him the tough questions at an early age, instead of just making him deal with everything all alone- His abusive father, his passive depressed mother, and the bullying he endured in school. Compare that to Violet’s overly supportive parents, her kind-of caring friends and you’ll realise why this stuff is important (it’s different that they both end up on the same ledge later)
- Exploring the city- I’m not going to lie, this book made me want to pack a bag and go on a road trip around Mumbai checking out the offbeat and shady places we usually tend to ignore, because when Finch and Violet do that together as part of a US geography project, it looks like so much fun! they explore the state of Indiana, and the whole process is what brings them together. Their love story is not very smooth and yet the bottom line is that they both need each other, and while they may not completely understand each other, they really don’t care.
“You know what I like about you, Finch? You’re interesting. You’re different. And I can talk to you. Don’t let that go to your head.”
… “You know what I like about you, Ultraviolet Remarkey-able? Everything.”
- Death– Again not going to lie, but this book has made me question some stuff I really didn’t want to question. My views on the world, people and most importantly- death. What is it? Why does it exist? Theo seems fascinated by death, to a point where he comes across as blatantly suicidal, and that sort of made me fascinated by the whole concept. (SPOILERS) What happened after he jumped into that lake? Did he find the bottom? Is there an afterlife? can a person really just disappear like that scientist guy? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!
“We all have a shelf life.”
In conclusion I want to say that this book is brilliant and I recommend it to everyone. It made me laugh ( which is awesome since it deals with some pretty heavy stuff) , question, think and cry. It’s super well written, and the characters are very interesting, even the side characters like Brenda, Charlie, Amanda etc. I wish I could’ve seen more of Brenda though ( she’s a friend of Finch and probably the most badass character) . What I like most about this book though is that It wasn’t some preachy educational mental awareness book, nor was it too intense or morbid, it was a good balance of happy and sad and it felt very real.
I’m so sorry this turned out to be way too long! If you stuck around till then end then THANK YOU SO MUCH.