Paperback, 400 pages.
Release date: January 8th 2015.
Rating: 4½ out of 5.
Source: Received for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.
The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this compelling, exhilarating, and beautiful 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.
All the Bright Places is an incredible, painful, beautiful, heart-wrenching supernova of a book.
A movie adaptation is already in the works with Elle Fanning attached to star as leading lady Violet, while fans still eagerly await news of who will play the book’s other narrator, the indomitable and unforgettable Theodore Finch. More importantly, however, the kind of powerful, stunning novel that blindsides you not once, not twice, but in every single chapter. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and it’s not for the faint-hearted. There’s a delicate brutality to the narrative that both dares you to look away and challenges you to read on.
Violet and Finch are very different, but what counts is what they have in common (to start with, that’s being on the same precarious ledge at the same precarious time and somehow both walking away to fight another day). Trauma and loss has made Violet a shell of the person she once was. She’s given up on her dreams and finds herself wondering what she really has left to live for. Thankfully as the book goes on we get to see her more mischievous, inventive side, which you’ll really enjoy if you’ve found issue books a little lacking in personality or character in the past.
Finch, on the other hand, is passionate, dangerously clever and utterly chaotic, each mood swing almost as self-destructive as the other. Torn between despair and recklessness, many readers will recognise that it’s bipolar disorder which plagues Finch, while many more will simply hope against hope that he will somehow find help and be able to reclaim his existence from its greedy hands. It’s a timely reminder that while many of us are lucky enough to be understanding and aware of as well as educated about mental illness, many people, particularly teens, suffer not in silence but from sheer lack of resources - and compassion.
Rather brilliantly, one of the most memorable things about Violet and Finch’s story is that it isn’t about ‘moving on’ or ‘finding a cure’. It’s about learning to live with what you’ve been given, and trying to find moments of joy in the most turbulent of storms. Needless to say their relationship isn’t exactly conventional, and the odds seem stacked against their unlikely partnership, but it’s impossible not to root for them. I loved their romance and only wish we could have seen more of it, but with such big themes to conquer and such flawed characters to explore, the book is positively brimming over with other details that keep you reading.
This is a book that demands to be noticed. It’s designed to touch readers on a deeply personal level. It provokes discussion as well as emotion and I can guarantee that once you read it — for better or for worse — you won’t be able to stop thinking about it. Filled with searing clarity and messy, confusing love, it pierces the heart and captures the imagination.
Unfortunately, five star reads are hard to come by on my shelf, and I’m going to have to be just as tough on All the Bright Places as I am on any other book. For one thing, seasoned YA readers will probably be able to tell that this is the author’s first foray into young adult fiction, and I would have loved to have seen a stronger, more prominent plot on occasion. Sometimes the sheer tragedy of the book can seem exploitative, while the breakneck writing style, particularly in Finch’s chapters, can take some getting used to. Comparisons to Jodi Picoult and Hilary T. Smith are probably more apt than misleading comparisons to John Green and Rainbow Rowell, because while All the Bright Places is likely to cause a worldwide shortage in Kleenex being released, there aren’t as many tender or heart-warming moments as I would have liked. However, it is still a fantastic read, which is why it gets 4.5 stars and huge acclaim from me.
In short: All The Bright Places is everything I’d hoped it would be and more. It’s a courageous and hard-hitting tale of love, loss and survival, set against a backdrop of tough issues and a stunning writing style. It’s so close to perfect, I think I’ll be recommending this one for years to come. I can't wait to see what Jennifer Niven has in store for us next.