Release Date: January 6th, 2015
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 book offers a poignant and painfully real look at mental illness and its effects. "
Disclaimer: I received an eARC from the publisher on NetGalley. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this.
Wow, wow, wow. This book, you guys. I fell in love with the book for so many reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason was the way it discussed and looked at mental illness and how it affects those around the mentally ill as well. There's this exploration of the ups and downs, the highs and lows, of someone going through a really tough situation with little or no help. People don't understand. People don't know what to do or say. People pretend to ignore it, try to pretend that mental illness isn't a thing. People leave loved ones to fight on their own, sometimes knowingly and sometimes not knowingly. And sometimes, no matter how much we love someone and no matter how far they've come, the mental illness is still too much. It's horrible, and it's sad, but it's true.
All the Bright Places offers a painful real story of people living with grief and pain and mental illness. It's not glorified. It's not taken lightly. The ending fits the rest of the events of the book, and it's a bittersweet ending. Niven faces the issue head on and doesn't let the subject stop her from telling someone's story. But the book isn't completely sad either. Just like the end of the book, it's mostly bittersweet. There are happy moments, funny moments, but there are also many tough, rough moments, moments when the characters can't seem to bounce back from. This book offers a poignant and painfully real look at mental illness and its effects.
On a separate note, I really enjoyed the exploration of Indiana. It's so refreshing to read a book that takes place somewhere usually forgotten about in books. I really like how the book focused on finding beauty in a place that most tend to view as boring. I think it goes well with the idea of find beauty in someone people forget to look at as a real person and someone people don't like to think about. And it just provides a great way to get to know Indiana a bit more. Every state needs a book like this!
However, while I thoroughly enjoyed the book, a few small aspects kept me from really, really loving it. First was the relationship between Finch and Violet. At times, especially towards the end, I was fully on board, but at first, their relationship just made me feel really awkward. I think it was the way Finch treated Violet. I really enjoy the two characters, and it's really interesting to see their journey throughout the book. They're both so complex, and it's really amazing to see the two of them grow closer and to see how that affects the both of them. But sometimes it was hard to be in Finch's head, as his voice sometimes reminded me of Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Pudge from Looking for Alaska. For me, it's the kind of voice that's just too much and too distant for me to handle, but of the three, I did like Finch the best overall (in terms of voice). But their relationship seemed rushed in the beginning and extremely one sided. I know part of it was that Violet was really hesitant because it's so far from who she was at the beginning, but it still made for a bit of awkwardness.
And lastly, there's that ending. I went through most of the book without crying, and I was feeling all good about not being one of the people that cried at the (near) ending, but then it was like nope! and all the tears came pouring down. But the thing is, I totally saw it coming. All the classic warning signs were there, and I couldn't understand how the other characters couldn't see it coming. Maybe it's because sometimes you don't want to see the hurt others are hiding and so you don't, and I guess some were too caught up in their own journey to fully understand someone else's. Maybe it's because you so badly want to, need to, believe that you've helped someone find their happiness that you fail to see what's really going on. Either way, I saw it coming, and at first I was kind of irked about this, but the thing is, after finding out that Niven went through a similar ordeal, I realized that sometimes, life just happens that way. Predictable when we look back on it but so shocking when it first happens because we just didn't see it coming, even if it was so painfully obvious. I can't criticize her for writing about life. It might not be the best choice for the book, but that's the difference between books and real life sometimes.