Review: All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places cover“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.”

I’ll say that this book comes with a trigger warning, for depression, bipolar disorder, bereavement and suicidal issues. Just to clear that one up now, before I can talk about why this is one of the best books I have read this year.

And, another warning: past about halfway through, do not read this book in public, because you will end up on a train home from uni trying not to have a total emotional breakdown and existential crisis whilst sniffling as discreetly as you can so as not to draw attention to the fact that you’re totally losing it over this book.

This story was strongly driven by its characters. Violet is struggling to cope with the death of her older sister, who was a best friend to her. Finch has just come out of an episode of what he calls The Asleep, and is seizing life by the throat while he can. Violet is one of the popular girls at school. Theodore Finch is called Theodore Freak in the school hallways.

The chapters alternate for a while between Violet and Finch. I loved that: you get to really submerse yourself in both of their stories, which makes the impacts of the events of the later chapters that much stronger.

It was beautiful and tragic and romantic; Violet and Finch were beautiful and tragic and romantic – both as individuals and their relationship. And while that could have gone horribly wrong, given how the book deals a lot with the aforementioned triggers, it was written in the most incredible way possible. I never once felt like Violet’s grief for her sister was romanticised, and the same goes for Finch’s mental health problems.

The stories of Finch and Violet felt raw and real and not contrived in the least.

I’d rather not say too much about the actual story, because it’s the sort of thing that you really need to experience for yourself. Those of you who’ve read TFiOS and know about the quote about books that fill you with an evangelical zeal – well, this is one of them. I kind of want to read it again already (the only thing stopping me is the sheer number of books I have yet to read).

Definitely a book worth shouting about and definitely an author I’ll be looking out for more books from.


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