Sunday, January 11, 2015

Book Review - All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Title: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.
Series?: No.
Pages: 384 pages
Publisher: Knopf
Dates read: January 7th to January 10th 2015 (ebook)
Goodreads Synopsis:
 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.
Rating: 4/5 stars
**This review may contain spoilers**
There really is only one word that I could use to sum up this book: Wow. When I finished reading the book, I honestly just sat there and thought: Wow. This book is incredible. Now, I didn't cry ugly tears like I've seen a few people have, but I was nonetheless moved by this book. I can easily say it's one of my favourites.

ATBP actually reminded me of It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, which is one of my favourite books of all time. In ATBP, you're introduced to Theodore Finch and Violet Markey when they're standing on the ledge of the bell tower of their high school, both contemplating what would happen if they jumped/fell. They end up both talking each other off the ledge and from there, their relationship progresses.

Now let's talk about Violet and Finch. I loved them. It usually takes me a while to groove onto characters, especially in contemporary books. Not in ATBP. I loved Finch from the first chapter. Only he could actually make me laugh while being worried about him at the same time because he's standing on a freaking ledge. Seriously, though. I have like 23 bookmarked quotes in this book and I think at least 70% of those are Finch lines. Finch is one of the best, most realistic male leads I've come across in a while. He was just so real. I wanted him to get better and I felt terrible for him when he talked about his dad and his childhood. I also loved the emphasis that was put on the fact that he didn't want to be defined by his mental illness (the Life is Life scene was one of my favourites). I honestly could just go on about how much I love Finch, but I won't. He's just great.

Violet was awesome too. Her back story was so well-written. I felt sad for her. I could totally relate to her feelings about writing. And she made me laugh a few times too. I loved seeing her transition from the girl still grieving her sister's death after almost a year to a confident girl who is ready to take life by the horns. That's my favourite part about Jennifer Niven's characters in this book: they're all just so real. I laughed when they laughed, I was sad when they were sad. Even Amanda Monk's story touched me, even though it wasn't part of the main story at all. Usually I find characters in contemporary YAs to be less-than-well-written but this wasn't the case at all with All the Bright Places

I really think the strongest part of All the Bright Places is Jennifer Niven's storytelling talent. The story in this novel progresses so naturally and seamlessly. Violet and Finch's love story was told amazingly. Them kissing/getting together/doing the dirty didn't come too soon or not soon enough. It felt realistic enough for a relationship between two teenagers dealing with their own issues. The only thing that I have to complain about is {SPOILER AHEAD} Finch's death. I find that it maybe came a bit too soon. Maybe it's because I saw that ending coming from the beginning of the book, but I find that it just came up a bit too fast to have such an impact on me (i.e., Gus' death in The Fault in Our Stars). But it's still a minor complaint, in my opinion. I was so sad when he died, but I think that the plot's predictability kind of took away from the sad/sob factor of the book.

I feel like I have to dedicate an entire paragraph to the "wander Indiana" aspect of the book. I think it's the part of the book that I loved the most. Violet and Finch get paired up in their U.S. Geography class for a project where they have to explore the wonders of Indiana. So, Violet and Finch start with their wanderings. They go to visit different attractions in Indiana. The way these wanderings were written was just so fun and vivid. I felt like I was going there right along with them. I swear I've added half of those places to my book places bucket list. I also really liked how the wanderings corresponded with Violet's character growth. The location of the wanderings get further and further away from Bartlett as Violet gets more and more comfortable with driving again.

This book was perfect. There was nothing wrong with this book. I never once wanted the action to go faster or slower, the plot and characters and story was awesome. This is a book that made me feel things. Which is super perfect.

All in all, I absolutely adored this book. It's funny, it's sweet, it's sad and it'll make you feel almost every emotion there is to feel. It raises important points about mental illness, it's an important book. I just wrote an eight-page essay on mental illness' portrayal in YA novels and I really wish that I could have used All the Bright Places as source material. ATBP shows the stigmas that are present about mental illness, and it shows how it affects people who suffer from mental illness, whether they are diagnosed with something or are too afraid to seek out help. Everyone should read All the Bright Places because not only is it well-written and heartwarming, it also has amazing characters, witty and clever dialogue and an important portrayal of how mental illness affects teenager's in their every day lives.

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