All The Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven, is a fabulous YA novel set in small town Indiana. The book is a love story with the topic of mental health and suicide threaded throughout. It is written in alternating perspectives between the two protagonists: Theodore Finch (who was also commonly referred to as Theo or Finch) and Violet Markey. Theo is a young adult who is intrigued by death–every day he conjures up different scenarios for his own–but everyday he realizes he has something worth living for. The other protagonist, Violet, is a girl who was once the stereotypical popular girl at school but after a horrible accident was changed into a quiet and introverted person. After Finch talks Violet out of jumping off the school bell tower he asks her to be his partner for their “Wander Indiana” Socials project and they visit some of the wonders of Indiana and, along the way, fall in love.
Violet is such an interesting character in the book. She used to be head of the cheerleader team and dated the hottest guy at school–the captain of the football team. She also had her own advice website she wrote on with her sister because they both were crazy about writing in their spare time, and was a honour roll student. But one night after a party that Eleanor takes Violet to, Violet convinced Eleanor to take the bridge home instead of the usual way. On the bridge Eleanor lost control of the car and drove off the edge. She passes away as a result and Violet then blames herself for her sister’s death. Her sister’s death absolutely destroys Violet and she practically stops living. She doesn’t do cheerleading anymore, doesn’t hang out with the “popular” crowd as much, and loses her website domain she had with her sister. Violet goes as far as to wear her sisters old glasses to try to be more like Eleanor and to try and to see life how she did but all that ends up giving her is headaches. Violet just counts down the days until graduation so she can leave this life behind and create a better one for herself.
I really thought that Violet was a well-done but somewhat cheesy character at the same time. She was pretty much a walking example of the stereotype commonly in books and movies of of the person who is sent reeling after a loved ones death and basically shuts down until she finds a boy who lets her live again. Even though she was kind of a cliché character I definitely enjoyed her in the book and thought she played a major role in making the book as enjoyable as it was.
On the other hand we have Finch. He is a social outcast who is nicknamed Theodore Freak. He has a “best friend” named Charlie at school who really by any stretch isn’t a friend at all. I would say a better term for him would be mutual acquaintance as Finch in the book even says, “Charlie may think it, but at least he doesn’t say ‘Weirdo,’ which is why he’s my best friend. Other than [that]… we don’t have much in common.” Just like Violet however, Theo was quite the cliché character. He was the typical black sheep alienated by all his schoolmates who meets the girl that gives him a chance and sees that he’s not such a weirdo and in fact is a sweet and nice guy. Personally I enjoyed Finch being a bit of cliché character but I can understand if others didn’t. I’m always rooting for those types of guys in books to get the girl so when he did I was really happy and that’s why I liked him in the book.
I was originally recommended this book by a friend and can say I’m super thankful they did. It was one of those books where when you read it you pay no attention to what’s around you and you just get sucked in. You feel like you’re there almost standing beside the characters and when you finally put it down to grab a snack or a drink two or three hours has already gone by. The beginning of the book was a little slow, as they had to set the table and give us all of the information. I didn’t really mind that though because most books aren’t that exciting when introducing everything. However once we powered through that it was a fabulous read until the end. The only standout problem I had with the book was the ending. Don’t worry I won’t spoil it for you but for my taste it just didn’t satisfy at all. I was pretty upset about that because when I finished the book I hadn’t even realized I had completed it. It was just too laid back of an ending and didn’t wrap things up the way I wanted.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and given the opportunity to go back I’d totally read it again. From the characters to the plot I found the book well done. However, if you read this book don’t be expecting too much from the conclusion, It’s just not what it needed to be to finish off a book as good as this one.
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