Book Review: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Wow! All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven wasn’t what I was expecting at. all. I’ve just finished reading this one, and I have to say — there are really a lot of feelings over here right now!

In the jacket description, All The Bright Places is billed as “a heart-wrenching, unflinching story of love shared, live lived, and two teens who find one another while standing on the edge.”

There’s a lot of description in that partial sentence — parts of it you won’t understand until the very end — but I will say this: I’m not sure I’ve ever read a more accurate description.

All The Bright Places is absolutely heart-wrenching, and it’s almost shockingly unflinching.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: An Emotional Read

All the Bright PlacesAll the Bright PlacesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is the only book that has ever made me go numb. I’ve never been shocked into numbness before, but this book absolutely took me to that spot — and it did so in an instant.

Somehow, at the same time, it also sent chills down my spine.

It was one of those rare reading moments: The second when you have to put down the book, take a deep breath, and process what you’ve just read.

That’s what happened to me with All the Bright Places. Though the story wasn’t always bright, so to speak, it was so worth the read.

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More About All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

The book tells the story of popular-girl Violet Markey and the so-called freak, Theodore Finch. As the story begins, Violet is dealing with the death of her older sister and Finch is simply trying to make it through the day without going to his dark place, or “going to sleep,” as he calls it.

The pair meet in the most unlikely of places: On the school bell tower as they both contemplate jumping to their deaths.

One of the high school seniors eventually saves the other, and the story takes off from there. Finch is aware of the fact that he’s different from everyone else, and his quiet confidence and assertiveness show that he simply doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. He’s a downright likeable character and, at his core, a good guy who wants the world to be a happy and positive place. Take this excerpt, for example:

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven excerpt“As I walk through the halls, there’s no telling what Badass British Finch might do. Take over the school, take over the town, take over the world. It will be a world of compassion, of neighbor loving neighbor, of student loving student or at least treating one another with respect. No judgements. No name-calling. No more, no more, no more.”

 

Sounds perfect, right? Finch is a fascinating character because his desire to live fully and to do good is constantly at war with his illness. Finch struggles with depression, and it is only in Violet that he finds a happy place.

So when their teacher assigns a partner project, Finch immediately volunteers to work with Violet. Initially Violet finds the arrangement to be odd, but she quickly begins to understand and even fall in love with Finch and all his eccentricities. As the pair work together and travel the state to work on their project, Finch slowly begins to push Violet and teach her to live again in the wake of the accident that killed her sister.

But while Finch helps Violet recovery, the reader is left to wonder: Can Violet help Finch “stay awake” and avoid his darkest place? Should he go to that dark place, will she be able to help him?

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: Mental Illness in the Spotlight

All the Bright Places by Jennifer NivenThe story that unfolds deals with the difficult but very, very real issues associated with mental illness, forcing the reader to take stock of her attitudes toward depression and, if necessary, re-examine those attitudes. The book brings about some very deep and serious questions which truly cause the reader to think about the issues at hand.

It’s painful, but it’s honest and raw and it causes the reader to feel, and feel deeply. For me, that’s the mark of a great story.

There aren’t a whole lot of books that truly cut me to the core the way All The Bright Places did, and this is one that will absolutely go on my “remember forever” list. I simply will not forget the details of this story.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought so. On Amazon, currently All The Bright Places has a 4.6-star rating with more than 520 reviews. Reviewer Evie Seo from Bookish Lifestyle said it best when she wrote:

“I’m not gonna lie to you, this book sneaked up on me. I wasn’t prepared for how much this story would affect me, the pain I felt while reading the final chapters was almost physical. It weighed down on me, making it harder to breathe… It was excruciating. But also oddly beautiful.”

Oddly beautiful is the truth. Don’t skip this one. You won’t find many books that are more real than All The Bright Places.

 All the Bright Places

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