Book Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven
E-book edition, 297 pages
Published January 6th, 2015 by Knopf

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends 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.

This review will contains spoiler, that will be unmarked and positioned unexpectedly, as well as some ramblings, because at this point I can’t function properly to know which one is a spoiler or not.

This is it. This is my contemporary book of the year. It makes me feel so many things I didn’t know I could feel. Books like this is the reason why I hate reading about mental illness. I know it’s an important topic, but the feeling of helplessness while reading is really hard to bear for me.

First, we are introduced with Theodore Finch. I found him hard to love at the beginning. He’s very manic pixie boy-ish: reckless, trying to make people live life to the fullest, and make people see that there’s “more” in this life. He was hard to understand, and his stream of thoughts are also pretty chaotic and morbid. But over the course of the book, I fell in love with him. How vibrant and full of life he is, how he tried to be his best, for his mother, sister, and Violet, how hard he tried to stay “awake” and how he tried to live in the moment. 

That’s why, seeing his downward spiral was too hard to bear. How full of energy he was, to the shadow of himself that’s living in his own closet. How he lost all his motivation to tried better, how in the end, despite everything, he chose to gave up his own life. It’s so hard. I know he’s fictional, but over the course of 80 days I know him, I already love him. It’s like watching your own bestfriend, or loved ones, decaying, and you want to help but you can’t do anything about it. Fictional or not, that is the worst and strongest feeling I’ve ever had.

Violet as a character fell a bit flat to me. Her development felt too fast for me, and I feel a kind of distance with her. I think she trust and fell for Finch too easily. She gets out from depression to quickly I think? I do love the strong bond she has with her sister, and also the relationship she has with her family. I was afraid she would break or shut in because Finch was pushing her too hard, but she didn’t. Even after Finch’s death, she wasn’t traumatised (?) and doesn’t went back into depression.

I love the lake scene; they were so peaceful, happy and content. It also shows how they both love each other, Finch came to his senses and surfaced, while Violet cried when she couldn’t find Finch. It’s like they’re saving each other, Finch makes Violet came out of herself, Violet makes Finch wanted to stay “awake”. They both wanted to get better. Finch sees Violet as his reason to live (lake scene), and Violet sees Finch as her reason to get out of her depression too.

A small part of me blamed both Violet and Finch. What if Violet tried harder? Isn’t Violet enough for Finch? Doesn’t he thinks about what happened to Violet? I know people just can’t think about anything that make them want to stay alive, and love doesn’t cure mental illness, but still. My mind just really full with what ifs and possibility.

What pisses me off the most is: I can’t believe everyone, EVERY SINGLE ONE of people in Finch life miss the signs. I just can’t. His friends knew he was suicidal, his school councellor too. His family knows how he is, and yet, he dissapeared for such a long time WITHOUT NO ONE BOTHER TO LOOK FOR HIM. I just can’t. Even after his death, his parents refused to acknowledge the suicide and write it off as an “accident”.

This book is beautiful and bittersweet, it makes me happy and yet it also ruin me. I didn’t cry, but I can’t get this book out of my mind. This book is definitely one of the best books I read this year, and it definitely leaves it mark on me.

11 Replies to “Book Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven”

  1. Tasya, you're motivating me to read this even more! I tried reading it at the start of the year – it just didn't work for me. But hearing that Theodore spirals down, that this is representative of mental illness – that's really encouraging to me. Thank you so much for this wonderful review, lovely! ❤


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