I received this book for free from Random House Children's Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on January 6th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: Random House Children's Books
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The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this compelling, exhilarating, and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
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.
This is the sort of story that kinda sneaks up on you. You’re not sure what kind of book it is at first – especially if you’re like me and don’t brush up on the blurb beforehand. It seems intense and gritty and even a tad confusing. You notice right away that the characters are definitely messed up with deep rooted issues they need to work on. Then there’s romance and profound conversations and soul searching and what seems to be a light at the end of this dark, dreary tunnel. Then, BAM!
Well ok don’t get too agitated, it takes a while until reality crashes down – almost at the end, really, but it basically changes the whole meaning of the book. At least it did for me. One thing this book does is open your eyes to the realities of living with a mental disorder. A label. A thing that you can’t see or control, but it defines you – if you let it. You’re never quite sure what’s wrong with Finch, but you know there’s something, and it’s unstable. He’s had a rough childhood, raised by abusive father and a mother who seems to not really question his bizarre behaviours. It’s incredibly sad, really. Heartbreaking and eye opening. He’s so messed up, yet no one cares enough to even realize this is bigger than simple teenage angst.
Despite his issues, Finch can be so spontaneous and fun, he sees the good in things, makes life into an adventure. He’s definitely a compelling character; intelligent and blunt. His strangeness made me like him all the more. He doesn’t know who he is, so he tries all kinds of styles – from 80s Finch to badass Finch. He doesn’t let the side glances and rumours get to him all that much, he takes every day in stride and that made me respect him. Though I assure you he doesn’t take any crap either. He can take care of his own, even if he goes a bit on the extreme at times. Violet is also a very well developed characters, but I didn’t find her quite as interesting as Finch. I also had a hard time distinguishing her voice from his during the POV switches. I had to keep reminding myself which perspective we were reading. I also found it very odd that she was the only one in her family who seemed to be affected by grief. Yes she lost a sister, but her parents lost a child mere months ago and you would never have known. For how caring and involved they were it felt unrealistic to me. That’s the only part I would raise an eyebrow at, however. The rest of the novel is written with such raw power, such realism, that you can truly insert yourself in these character’s lives and feel what it feels like to be so… broken.
The only other minor complaint is that the pacing could be off at times. The story would come to a halt and make you wish the shoe would just drop, you know. But then it does… I do highly recommend it for contemporary fans. The novel as a whole is emotionally gritty, character driven, and psychologically intense – I mean think about it, it’s got a fragile narrator who can’t even be trusted to live.
4 Hot Espressos