REVIEW: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

all-the-bright-placesAUTHOR: Jennifer Niven

PUBLISHER:Knopf

DATE PUBLISHED: January 6, 2015

RATING: 4 out of 5

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads): Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he of 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.

 

All the Bright Places is a long overdue read for me. I decided to let the hype wither down a little before I get my hands on it.


 

Writing Style

Jennifer Niven has authored several books prior to All the Bright Places. Safe to say, she’s a veteran on this field. However, this is her debut novel in the Young Adult genre as mostly her crafts cater to the adult department. I’m more than certain the great switch of target audiences and writing style was difficult but Niven’s transition was smooth. She’s fluent in teenspeak and she knows just the exact words that would elicit the proper emotions – laughter, good spirits, despair, sympathy, etc. 

Theme

Needless to say, the most eminent theme on this novel is suicide. The elements – setting, character personalities Niven used to create the mood and drama were fine. However, my sole basis for this conclusion is only on the emotions it evoked. There’s a bit of manipulation of feelings through words that might have happened. I can’t attest for certainty if these emotions are in adherence to truth as I’ve never experienced such nor am I a professional to confirm it. If Niven purely drew the cornerstone of her story just on what stuff the popular media proclaimed, not doing enough research, not digging deeper, then I guess this is a poor representation of the community involved.

However, the YA community is fortunate to be  introduced to this book holding such a theme so timely and essential. Jennifer Niven made a great choice of target market. I was once told by my friend who’s likewise a psychologist that depression is an illness, a thing that should be taken earnestly. It’s not just a fleeting feeling that crosses the mind. It exists as physically as an acne, a tumor, a fracture, etc. and thus, it’s not simply an excuse for affected people to grab attention.

In this novel, Finch suffered from Bipolar Disorder, an ostensible reason for his classmate to bully him while Violet endured Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a cause for her to halt living a life.We already saw multiple accounts of cases of these illnesses that they became a usual vocabulary for us, even a subject of ridicule or a matter of bullying for some. Reading this story, the clear-cut truth may have smacked us in the gut as we plea guilty on such crime. I like how we get a rigorous analysis of what goes on to these people’s mind, how they react against bullying or the people coercing them to make a headway in life. Violet and Finch stood to

Plot

Finch and Violet met at an odd place, at an odd time. Their course on love slowly developed (at least on Violet’s part, thank heavens we’re spared a “mutual instalove!”) while taking expeditions in Indiana town, exchanging private Facebook messages, etc. It (love-related plot) was a hooking series of events if truth be told, but for me it kind of eclipsed the core, the most important issue in the story which is mental illness. Like, Finch and Violet were about to jump off from atop the school building but then the author decides she has to create a love story out of them for her readers first. Sure, there were snippets and hints of that here and there but they were just that.

The plot unfolded in a manner that, for me, is basically foreseeable. The ending was no longer a surprise. I partly blame the hype for this because if it’s not so ridiculously put up and if people didn’t exclaim the ending was a scene to throw a fit, I wouldn’t have any presumptions. So yes, the promise to bawl out on this didn’t happen for me. It was sad but not too much. I partly think people were just being melodramatic over things but I don’t blame them. To each his or her own, of course.

Characters

Theodore Finch is the epitome of students who gets outright pressured by his environment – troubled families, bullies, school dilemmas, etc. His character development throughout the story was anything but static. He’s hilarious, smart, downcast, wrathful, and all other emotions trapped in one single soul. For some reasons, sitting behind the lens of his point of view, my connection with him as a reader is more powerful. In relation to this, another POV we sat at is Violet Marky aka Ultraviolet Re-Markey-able. Though I favored her perspectives less, I like Violet’s transition from the girl who receives assistance on moving on to the entirely otherwise someone, that who gives. Together, she and Finch made a good tandem in helping each other battle mental illness and the physical fun-obliterating, life-wrecking, formidable monsters in life.

Let’s look at their families. The Markey household notably lived the American dream. That’s putting aside the tragic fate the elder daughter in the family met. This is in complete contrast with the Finches. Before the heads of the household divorced, the scene was terrible. Battering and word abuse was a constant. These accessory characters played a big deal in moulding the characters. We learned how much Finch lingered for a better family by the way he’s hit with a pang of jealousy when he had a dose of warmth from Violet’s parents. With his dad persistently beating the living daylight out of him, he grew accustomed to the pain, unafraid of anything, not even death. Overall, the secondary personae were of great assistance in helping build character development of the primary ones


Let me end this review with one of my favorite quotes in the book.

“I learned that there is good in this world if you look enough for it. I learned that not everyone is disappointing including me, and that a 1257-foot bump in the ground can feel higher than a bell tower if you’re standing next to the right person.”

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TWITTER @thebookgasmblog|  GOODREADS @ Trisha Ann

 

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11 comments

  1. The quote you chose is probably my favorite out of the entire book. I agree with you on that the love story kind of overshadowed the main issue here, the mental illness. And the story was kind of predictable, in the end, but it still made me feel some things. I’m still impatient to know what Jennifer Niven will write, next 🙂

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    • I felt those emotions too and I owe it to Jennifer Niven’s wonderful writing skills. The hype on this book and the indirect mentions of what will happen in the end kinda shattered a would-be momentous ending for me. But like you, I’m still picking up another Jennifer Niven next time. I haven’t tried any of her New Adult books yet 🙂

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  2. This book has been on my TBR since January. I probably read it next year.

    You raised interesting point about bullying there, Trisha. I believe most of us are guilty of mocking or ridiculing mental illness. Even when I went to med school, especially on the early years, using mental illness as a joke is not something that’s unheard of. It’s a sad fact that we still need to be reminded of its seriousness.

    At this point, I believe I have more or less figure out the ending. Ha. I blame the hype too. Even a spoiler-free review could potentially spoil the twist, I am guilty of doing that myself. :p However, I don’t really mind knowing it because for me the ‘possible twist’ is not the main reason why I want to read this book.

    It’s a shame though that romance overshadows the theme. I feel like we keep falling into that trap between balancing romance and the main theme.

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    • It’s sad to hear that even people in the medical field (some), those supposed to understand what these people go through, still treat it as a joke.

      Haha! Yes and I’m sorry if I could have spoiled you in any way. You’re right. It’s kinda impossible to write a review that wouldn’t divulge at least a kernel of what the ending might be. But when you get to this book, I hope you’ll have a fresh outlook. Don’t mind my snarky review. Haha!

      Romance overshadowing the main theme has been a trend on YA lately. Especially on fantasy. But I don’t know, maybe it’s a marketing shtick. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad this book has been optioned for film and that I’d probably (actually) get around to watching the film rather than reading this title; which to be fair was highly anticipated despite being contemporary.

    But gauging your comments, I feel like I’d be extremely pissed that relationships/romance eclipses that focal theme. (Even if I couldn’t see it happening any other way.)

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    • I have positive thoughts on that movie especially since Elle Fanning’s opted for casting.

      I don’t know if it’s just me who viewed it as such (romance eclipsing the main theme) because others’ reviews were in total contrast. Though I’d like to think there’s at least a grain of truth to this for a book that markets itself to be something like TFIOS and Eleanor & Park.

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    • Yes to that! I mean, why do books have to always have a couple readers will ship for it to be considered a success??

      That was a remarkable quote indeed. People these days (and I have to include myself to these) travel for the purpose of taking pictures rather than enjoying the scene itself.

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  4. Even though I didn’t like this buy, I really enjoyed reading your review. I think my perceptions of this book were affected by how jaded I’ve become as of late. But reading this is refreshing, and I liked how you appreciate the finer details of this book. Great review Trisha, as always. ♥

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    • I made the draft of this review before you published yours and I’m glad to find someone else who thought the romance here overshadowed the more important theme. I thought I was the only one since other readers were over the moon with this.

      But yeah, there were some aspects on these books that for me, compensated for its failure hence, my rating. Thank, CW! 🙂

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