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.
Jennifer Niven wraps raw honesty in poetic prose and the result is a poignant modern classic.
All the Bright Places is a story of grieving, of the loss of oneself, and how being fully awake and aware in every moment of your life is one of the greatest experiences there is. It can be difficult to understand bi-polar disorder and the effect it has on both the person who has it and those close to them but Niven writes about mental illness and suicidal thoughts with a clarity and tenderness that seeps into the reader’s heart. It’s easy to see Finch as the star of this show, but I appreciated the narrative gave Violet’s depression and anxiety as much validity as Finch’s Asleep and Awake. The relationships between characters are fascinating and complex. One can analyse and debate their actions and intent down so many different roads. All the Bright Places is a book that doesn’t end just because you reached the last page, it stays in your mind, posing questions and haunting your heart. As endings go, All the Bright Places will crush your heart. Seriously, on a level of one to Allegiant, I’d give it a nine. Read it anyway. All the Bright Places is a powerful, moving novel, and arguably one of the most important books of our time.
Reading this book affected me on a personal level. I knew it would, but I really did not anticipate how deeply it would cut. Mental illness is often brushed off or pushed aside. People find sympathy when people commit suicide because they have cancer but those who take their lives due to depression are deemed shameful and weak. Finch reminded me what it’s like to live in constant self-observation, how carefully you have to anticipate your reactions and the way things may affect you because losing your footing for a moment can set the hinges rattling on the door. I remember counting and swaying and trying to align myself with the furniture because these things are handholds for the mind. If you hold tightly to them then it’s a little easier to ignore the monsters and their lies. Then there’s the way you feel when the darkness clears, when death passes by and you’re still alive. Niven captures all these emotions with such accuracy that I felt like I was reliving them. All the Bright Places reminded me what life is like when you live it in colour, as opposed to the monochrome of routine.