All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (January 6, 2015)
Reading Sara Rating: 7/10
Reading Sara Review: I loved many parts of this book. For young adult readers, and adults alike, it touches on the challenges of youth in a deep in a meaningful way. All the Bright Places had been on my TBR list since it was released in 2015 to rave reviews. I am so glad that I finally had a free weekend to devour this book.
All the Bright Places follows two protagonists, Violet Markey and Theodore Finch. They come from different worlds (Violet is popular and well-liked while Theodore takes pride in being the school ‘freak’). It sounds like a tired story until you learn how they meet in the first chapter: both on the belltower of their school, contemplating a jump. Spoiler alert: neither jumps, but they do build a friendship.
Violet and Theodore face inner demons that haunt them. They are different than the rest of their friends but are brought together by a sense of their shared hurt and struggles. This book is a story of first love, of the first opening of the heart to another soul. It is also the story of depression: how it can come as suddenly as it disappears and how love and friendship (no matter how great) cannot fix people who suffer.
Throughout reading the book, I had a feeling that something terrible was going to happen, which kept the book interesting until the last page.
This is one story of mental illness and certainly does not speak to all of the forms and struggles that people (especially teenagers) face. But I felt that this story was told well. The characters felt alive – you had hopes for them, you wanted them to get help, you hated some of the adults in their lives and had empathy for others.
If you are a fan of other heartbreaking young adult books (Fault in our Stars etc.), add this to your TBR list. It has a quirky tone for a book about something serious, which did not bother me – but I have heard of others complain of it. I thought Niven wrote a lovely story, with memorable characters, unforgettable emotions and lovable writing.
Read it now, before the movie comes out! I hear Elle Fanning is slated to play Violet in the 2017 film adaption.
Some of my favorite quotes, to give a sample of the writing style:
“The problem with people is they forget that most of the time it’s the small things that count.”
“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.”
“Sorry wastes time. You have to live your life like you’ll never be sorry. It’s easier just to do the right thing from the start, so there’s nothing to apologize for.”
“Because it’s not a lie if it’s how you feel.”