Book Review # 37: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Friday, 8 May 2015
Product details:
Title: All The Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Penguin
Format: Paperback
Length: 388 pages
Published: January 8th 2015
Rating: ☆☆☆

Source: Purchased
Purchase: Book Depository / Waterstones

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.

Right, where do I begin with this book. First of all I need to put it out there that I thoroughly enjoyed it - being very reminiscent of recent works I've read (Eleanor & Park and The Fault in Our Stars), we as readers are drawn into the connection between these two very different characters and we explore their journey as the book progresses. This is a book that I picked up immediately when it was released back in January, I had heard so many amazing things about it but when I got it I wasn't quite ready for it, so naturally it sat on my shelf. After the hype that had surrounded it about being the next Eleanor & Park/The Fault in Our Stars I was hesitant because they are two of my favourite contemporaries (this has recently been surpassed by another title.) I didn't want it to be just a cheap knock off of the storyline and while yes there were a few similarities, the book stood on it's own. So what did I think of it?

So our story takes place with our two main characters beginning on top of the school bell tower, both up there for different reasons. When a close call brings the two characters together, they're shoved together in every way possible. Violet is pitched as a hero, while deep down she has a lot of personal issues to get over and Finch is seen as the attempted suicide kid - which for if you've ever been depressive you'll know does not help your mood. What I really enjoyed about this book was the background plot of the school project - to visit places of interest in the area, to capture the moment and to leave something in return. This for me was an amazing element of the story because it reminded me so much of a road trip - and if you've read my reviews before you know I love a good road trip book. I loved the focus on each of these places and how Finch and Violet's characters grew with each one they visited. 

As for characters, well I was quite skeptical about them in the beginning. In the first quarter of the novel I definitely think I preferred reading Violet's chapters because of the depth they had behind them. I enjoyed Finch but I just thought he was a bit too overbearing - especially when he was trying to get Violet to reveal her past. Sometimes when you're still grieving I think you need to respect the space of the person instead of pressurising someone who is still struggling. As I said, I came to love Finch's character by the end of the book, I just thought in the beginning he was exceedingly over personal. Finch himself was a intruiging character because of the way he views the world and his own death - at times it almost seemed mechanical and lifeless, and yet he was also of the mindset where he could find beauty and uniqueness in the smallest of things. 

What I loved about the relationship between Finch and Violet was the fact there was no instalove -in fact Violet spent the first half of the novel neglecting Finch and turning him away. This obviously developed however and as the novel progressed, each opened each to one another and they started to heal, or so we thought... 

As Violet was coming to terms with her grievance, Finch was slowly beginning to spiral and by the end of the novel I was literally in tears. Although in reflection, knowing this was being made in comparison to a John Green novel I should have seen it coming but I literally choked when Violet discovered what had happened. It was such a horrific way to go as well - I was sat in a school staff room surrounded by teaching colleagues when I read it and I'm telling you now I had to take some very deep breaths to not allow myself to get overcome by emotion while I was at work.

Jennifer Niven you are ruthless and torturous towards the hearts of your readers.

However, what I did really appreciate about the ending to this novel was the way in which grief was portrayed on a larger scale. In school grief is split up into two separate categories and I find these to be very true to live. One side of grief deals with how a tragedy can be used to start a discussion - to make a change, to make an impact. Something that we know Finch was idolising. On the other hand, grief can bring around an opportunity to take advantage of the situation and extort it without considering the consequences of others. I think this is quite a realistic notion to have and this novel does handle grief and explore it in a vast range of scenarios. It was just one of the positives that this novel explored while exploring such a traumatic time for both reader and characters. 

So overall this was a very compelling novel - it was realistic in it's writing, compassionate yet  completely heart and soul destroying. I hate to agree with the surge of comparisons to John Green but if you can survive The Fault in Our Stars then I'm sure you'll manage this with no problems, just have the tissues at the ready. This novel was deep and it explored positivity in a light that is becoming quite popular with Young Adult fiction at the minute, and I'm glad it is. This world needs more positivity and if we can do it one post-it note at a time, then so be it. I give All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven a 4 out of 5 stars on my classification scale, a truly touching book.

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