Book Review | All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Published by Knopf on January 6, 2015

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 400

Source: Book Expo America

Goodreads

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.

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!
 
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 is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

REVIEW

I am a huge fan of contemporary young adult novels, and I knew I would enjoy All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven as soon as I began to hear buzz about it back in 2015. I was luckily able to meet the author at Book Expo America last year, and received an autographed copy of the book. However, I didn’t pick it up until early 2016 because I know it would be an emotional investment. All the Bright Places is definitely a poignant read, but it’s absolutely beautiful and my first five-star rating of 2016. Let me share more of my thoughts on the book with you.

All the Bright Places follows two teenagers, Finch and Violet, and opens when they meet on the roof of their high school, both contemplating suicide. Finch talks Violet out of jumping, and the two begin a friendship. The book is written in a dual perspective, so readers follow both Finch and Violet, and learn about the struggles each has had to encounter in life. The two team up for a class project in which they must discover the wonders of their home state, Indiana, and the book follows their journey together.

I was deeply moved by All the Bright Places, and think everyone needs to read this book. It does deal with very difficult topics like mental illness and suicide, so do take that into account before reading. That being said, I loved Niven’s writing very much. While the writing style is easy to read and flows very naturally, it also contains a maturity that isn’t often found in young adult literature. Finch and Violet have distinct voices, and Niven’s writing is very powerful.

Moreover, there were some things I didn’t like about All the Bright Places. Many of the characters in the novel are extremely unlikeable, especially the adults. However, I still gave this novel a five-star rating because I know that Niven purposefully writes these characters to be unlikeable, and develops them well. For example, Finch has extremely neglectful parents that are abusive and not present in his life. While that angered me, it helped the story. It shows a real situation where teenagers don’t have good home lives, and desperately need help in order to survive. Thus, while it would be easy for me to detract a star from my rating because I didn’t like certain characters, I didn’t because I know they are purposefully written that way.

Similarly, I found Finch very difficult to understand at first. His chapters didn’t make sense to me, but by the end of the book I saw that this was done to show readers his struggles. I’m not supposed to fully understand his thoughts, because even he doesn’t even know what he’s going through completely. I think Niven does an excellent job of writing his character, as she does with all the characters in All the Bright Places.

Finally, my favorite thing about the book was how it lit a fire in me as a reader. A big aspect of All the Bright Places is wandering. Finch and Violet visit a lot of unique places in their home state, and I want so much to take their journey, too. I also want to visit the wonders in my own home state to see what’s out there. All the Bright Places also inspires me to take care of myself and watch out for the ones I love. It’s so important to care for one another, even though it might be extremely difficult.

All in all, I am so glad I finally read All the Bright Places. I did cry a lot while reading it, and when I was finished I sat and cried for a little while, too. But I do really think that this is a book that needs to be read, and so I recommend it to you. I hope you’ll pick it up and enjoy it as much as I do!

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