Novel: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Nevin
There are Spoilers!
Non-Spoiler Summary: This book revolves around high school senior, Violet Marker, a popular girl whose life has fallen a part after her sister and her were in a car accident and she survived but her sister, Eleanor, didn’t. This book ALSO revolves around outcast Theodore Finch, who meets Violet at the top of a bell tower. As these two begin to get to know each other through a US Geography assignment, they begin to help one another heal their wounds and attempt to move on from their equally troubled pasts.
Review: So I had the brilliant idea to read the last 150 pages while I was at work. Let me paint this picture for you: I’m there, at the front desk of a tennis club, reading my book like it was any other day, all of a sudden I begin to cry, almost uncontrollably, while members are having conversations around me, some of them asking me questions about how to schedule massages, all the while Theodore Finch has just been found dead and I cannot contain my emotions even slightly. I ended up having to go into the bathroom stall and cry in there. SO.. as someone who thought she could get through All the Bright Places without crying I have advice for everyone else: if you try to read the end of this book in public, prepare for odd stares as you begin to cry and snot all over the pages and possibly start yelling at the book as if it is a living thing that has decided to come into your life and sneeze all over it.
That being said, this book is book that I think depicts mental illness in a really authentic way. What I liked even more about it is the fact that it had two perspectives and therefore shown a light not only on Finch, who suffered with mental illness, but on the people like Violet that feel completely helpless when seeing their loved ones so unhappy. Violet’s reactions to Finch’s decisions and mental state is something that was 100% believable and in no way over-done or cheesy. Her thoughts after his suicide about not being enough for him or wishing she could’ve saved him or loved him more are thoughts that really hit home for me. As someone who has friends who have struggled with mental illness, I have always struggled to find someone or even a character who has similar experiences and Ultraviolet Remarkey-able is the first character I really thought understood the pain and helplessness that comes from seeing your friends in pain.
On a slightly happier note, I AM IN LOVE WITH THEODORE FINCH. Actually in love. I’m especially mesmerized by his outlook on life and his completely unique perception of the world. I loved his different Finch’s from 80’s Finch to Nerdy Finch, it made his character dynamic and also slightly more believable. Even if we teenagers in high school don’t normally go through such distinct identity phases, I know for a fact throughout this period of my life I have juggled many different variations of myself and it sometimes has been hard to decipher which one is the real me at times. In someways he almost reminded my of Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars. They had similar mentalities as in Gus would always say, “I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up my friend,” and I think that Finch’s outward appearance to everyone including Violet most of the time gave off a similar vibe to that. I also was really intrigued by his obsession with water and the intertwining quotes from Virginia Woolf’s Waves. I haven’t had enough time to really understand the deeper meaning behind the water thing other than its cleansing and peaceful and a place where Finch feels safe but either way that and his love for that fake Jupiter-Pluto theory (sorry forgot the name!) was fascinating to me. In the end, Finch without a doubt makes my top 10 fictional boyfriend list.
This book was realistic, something that is sometimes hard to come across in YA all the time; it’s opening scene on the top of a bell tower made it clear to me right away this wouldn’t be a romanticized or cheesy novel for sure.
Overall, I really truly enjoyed this story, and never once got tired or bored with the characters and their journeys. One of the things that I loved most about Theodore and Violet’s relationship was that they complemented each other so well; helping each other heal in any way that they could was something so beautiful and remarkable. Despite the tragic ending, or even in light of it, Niven wonderfully articulates that we don’t have to forget those we’ve lost and instead we should carry their memories with us forever and allow them to shape us as we continue to grow.
P.S. I SO want to live in Indiana now, all their wanderings made it seem 10x cooler than any metropolitan or “hip” place I’ve wanted to live.