Books · REVIEWS

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places

“We are all alone, trapped in these bodies and our own minds, and whatever company we have in this life is only fleeting and superficial.”

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.

Personal Thoughts:

Halfway reading All the Bright Places I’m pretty sure how the story will end or how my review will goes. All the quotes I bookmarked and the few notes I managed to jot down in those little arrow post-its I’m using feels like very useful in my review until the story take the road I’m dreading. If I’m being honest, part of me knows the story will actually take the route the author chose, there are hints along the way but I keep on denying them hoping that Jennifer will actually go for the brighter road. I thought that was the title is telling me so I keep my hopes up, until the last part where it felt like all things shattered into pieces and left my heart in pain and my eyes teary.

That last part changed my feelings and view of the novel, making All the Bright Places more worthy read than just the usual YA contemporary book. It makes the novel more meaningful and profound by highlighting the reality of the character’s situation and condition.

Unlike with the author, I don’t have close experience with people who suffer from severe depression, bipolar disorder or other kinds of labels like those. I won’t understand them in the same level as those who have first hand or close experience. Reading this book though give me a piece of that experience. If anything else, All the Bright Places push me to be more sensitive to other people. To look deeper to my surroundings and people around me. To be more aware and more caring to others.

All the Bright Places somehow changed my view not only of suicide but also of mental illness. Reading the perspectives of both Finch and Violet gives me access to the thoughts and views of victim and survivor of suicide. Things we somehow knew but never really given thought of.

“The problem with people is they forget that most of the time it’s the small things that count.”

If you ask me before I read this book what’s my stand on suicide, you might get a firm answer from me being against it, now, if you will ask me again after reading this book I will still give you the same answer but with lesser conviction like the first, especially if we will factor mental illness in the story.

It’s easy to put blame to those who took their own lives. To view suicide as a cowardice or way-out when in fact we don’t have any idea of what’s really going on in their mind when they do it. When someone died out of cancer, people usually view it as a lost battle. We say, “he lost his battle with cancer” but when someone died due of suicide we put the blame to the victim so easily. But what if the victim is suffering with mental illness, should we still blame him? For what? For putting an end to his suffering? Why can’t we view it as a lost battle too, like those who suffer in cancer. Who knows how much they tried to fight their depression, and in the end lost their battle with it.

‘The fact is, I was sick, but not in an easily explained flu kind of way. 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.’

On the whole, All the Bright Places is an intense novel that delivers raw and exquisitely painful story. It realistically explore the dark and sensitive issue of depression, mental illness and suicide. All the emotions of life, love, and loss bleeds through the pages of this book and they all make it powerful and more beautiful.

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