All the Bright Places
Jennifer Niven (Penguin UK)
I read this book over christmas and my family basically didn’t get any conversation out of me because I was just buried in this book for a week. It was amazing.This book is a dual perspective story of two kids in high school. Violet, who is counting down the days until she graduates high school and leaves for college and Finch, who is basically counting the days he feels ‘alive’ despite actually wanting to be dead. The story follows both characters as they get to know each other. Finch pursues Violet via facebook messenger and they end up partners on a school project that makes them travel around their home state together discovering new places and experiences.
I read this book at a perfect time of the year as 2015 was drawing to an end and ultimately this book is about endings of sorts. Finch saves Violets life at the beginning of this book as she stands on the edge of their schools bell tower contemplating jumping off, but ironically it is as he himself is also standing on the edge looking down. In life at the time i was reading this I felt like I was standing on my own metaphorical ledge and through following the story of this book I was able to come off the ledge and discover in my own life who and what would keep me off that ledge.
Jennifer Niven weaves together the contrasting lives of Violet and Finch beautifully and the subjects she tackles like mental illness, broken families and death of a loved one are so touching and enagaging that you feel like you are walking the journeys of each character with them. I connected to both characters in different ways but mostly I felt an empathy toward Violet especially how she struggled to rediscover her passion for writing after a trauma in her personal life.
There was nothing I strongly disliked about this book, some of the background secondary characters I felt wern’t needed at all, especially Violet’s on again off again ‘boyfriend’ Ryan Cross… However Jennifer Niven’s writing style keeps you wanting more and more from our main characters so the very small scenes with secondary characters didnt feel heavy and out of place.
Overall I would highly recommend this book to anyone, YA contemporary lover or not. It gives such beautiful insight into something struggling to live with a heavy mental illness, and although it is at times difficultly triggering to read, I urge people to read and learn about it.
“She is oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. The same elements that are inside the rest of us, but I can’t help thinking she’s more than that and she’s got other elements going on that no one’s ever heard of, ones that make her stand apart from everybody else.”
“I take a good long look at her. I know life well enough to know you can’t count on things staying around or standing still, no matter how much you want them to. You can’t stop people from dying. You can’t stop them from going away. You can’t stop yourself from going away either. I know myself well enough to know that no one else can keep you awake or keep you from sleeping. That’s all on me too. But man, I like this girl.”
“I learned that there is good in this world, if you look hard enough for it.”