Review: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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Details & Summary

Title: All The Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Release Date: January 6th, 2015
Pages: 378

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.

My thoughts…

Since this book is marketed as “an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham” and it’s been a huge success, I had high expectations going into it. My review will talk about how All the Bright Places met most of my expectations but also where it failed.

The book is split up into two first POV’s–Finch’s and Violet’s. I usually don’t enjoy dual POV’s but Jennifer Niven did a fantastic job at developing distinct voices for both main characters. Finch is spontaneous, impulsive and highly energetic but also unmistakably depressed and melancholic. Violet is more guarded, reflective, and trying to figure out her life and life itself after her sister’s death. While a lot of reviewers have accused Niven of making her characters overly quirky (they’re “different” and highly intelligent and quote Virginia Woolf to each other), I didn’t mind their quirkiness. I’m a huge John Green fan, who’s also guilty of creating very quirky characters, so it didn’t bother me at all.

Plot-wise, it’s very clear from the start of the book that it’s about two teenagers trying to help each other live while inevitably falling in love with each other. This is where the trouble starts. While I understand and relate to the characters, I know Niven is inadvertently sending out the wrong message.

“You saved my life. Why couldn’t I save yours?”

Teenagers are not supposed to save each other or help each other live. They’re supposed to get help from adults and professionals to try and address their (mental health) problems. Yes, Finch was seeing a therapist, and, yes, Violet’s parents were present and they cared about her wellbeing, but, ultimately, I think the adults failed the teenagers. There were plenty of signs, yet no one intervened the way they should have. That’s the wrong message to send out to teenagers. They need to feel like they have adults to turn to or they might think their situation is hopeless and make the wrong choice–like Finch did.

Having said that, I think she did a good job at portraying what it’s like to suffer from mental illness. Especially in Finch’s sections of the book.

“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.”

Even if you’ve never suffered from mental illness, it’s easy to relate to the wide variety of feelings and emotions that are portrayed in the book such as anger, pain, confusion, heartache, hope, and dread in regards to the future because everyone is battling or has battled those same issues when they were teenagers or young adults.

Lastly, I want to praise Niven’s writing. It’s not easy to portray two very different characters, but she succeeded. Violet’s and Finch’s thoughts are raw and relatable and her writing is beautiful and often poetic–though I’m sure many people would call it pretentious.

While All The Bright Places could’ve set a better example for teenagers by having a better support system of adults and professionals in place to help the main characters battle through their issues, it did manage to bring awareness to mental illness by accurately portraying the experience of her main characters.

Rating

24 thoughts on “Review: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

  1. Fantastic review! I posted my own review the first thing in the morning, but your review reminded me that I didn’t touch on the most crucial point with regard to mental illness; I let my emotions get the better of me (I was in a sobbing mess) and kept droning on how poignant it was without touching on that point. (So I revised my review. Hope you don’t mind!) Thanks for sharing such a great post. I really enjoyed this!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! And of course I don’t mind. I was really affected by this book as while, which is why I gave myself some time to digest it and reflect.
      Also, before I write a review, I check Goodreads and scroll through other people’s reviews. Sometimes that helps me put things in perspective 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for the fantastic review! I am glad to read about another book that focuses on mental illness 🙂
    It seems like the characters are interesting. I will add this to my Tbr.
    I absolutely agree that teenagers, or a person of any age, should seek help from a counselor or a psychiatrist if they think they have a mental illness. There are plenty of effective treatments available (therapy and medications) and earlier treatment is always best.

    Cheers,
    Sophie

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Definitely a good review! I totally agree with you with the wonderful characters and writing, which i just fell in love with. I didn’t think much about the messages of the book and the mental illness side because I was overtaken with emotion upon reading, but now I totally agree with what you are saying. I think it was a 4 stars from me aswell!
    I read her other book, Holding Up The Universe, and I gave it 2 stars! I found it so dull and unrealistic and UGH and just mainly disappointing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I’ve heard from many people that Holding Up the Universe was a huge disappointment! Judging by the blurb, it also doesn’t sound as interesting to me as All the Bright Places. I doubt I’ll pick that one up anytime soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful review, Lauren! I’m glad to hear you enjoyed that one. I’m not too much of a fan of multiple POV but I thought that Niven did a pretty good job here to write two very distinctive voices, I agree 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review! I’ve been on the fence with this one for the longest time! People seem to either love it or dislike it. I wonder if that has to do with their own experiences or exposure to mental illness

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I sort of went on to spoil myself regarding the story cause I was pretty much not likely to pick this up, but I can definitely say that it sounded like a fantastic book. I liked what you had to say about this book, especially regarding adults failing teenagers. Hopefully that message doesn’t come out too strong for readers who REALLY relate to the characters and their illness’ and struggles. Fantastic review!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I think it’s one of those things YA authors have to work on: making adults more responsible and part of the characters’ lives. I mean, I get why they want the main characters to “take matters into their own hands” (as it usually makes for a more interesting story). But that could be dangerous when it comes to mental health issues because it could have real consequences for real people. So I hope YA authors will be a bit more careful in the future 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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