BOOK REVIEW: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Reviewed by Aly Locatelli
Is today a good day to die?
All the Bright Places turned out to be one of the most personal books of the year for this particular reader. Although it’s being marketed as “The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park“, I have to violently disagree. As someone who detested both of those books, All the Bright Places touched something that those books did not.
Theodore Finch, seventeen, wants to die. He knows the best ways to commit suicide, as well as the international percentages of those ways, and knows all the most famous suicide notes off by heart. Stood on the school’s bell tower, Finch is ready to jump.
“Is today a good day to die?
And if not today– when?”
But then someone points at the bell tower — not at Finch, who has been labelled ‘freak’ and ‘weirdo’ and whom no one really cares about — but at a girl who has climbed onto the ledge beside him, Violet. She thinks she wants to jump, too.
“From down below, someone yells, “Violet? Is that Violet up there?”
“Oh God,” she says, so low I barely hear it. “OhGodohGodohGod.” The wind blows her skirt and hair, and it looks like she’s going to fly away.
Violet has realised she doesn’t want to die and, being popular and pretty and everything Finch is not, he decides to save her reputation by acting as if she climbed up there to save his life. From there, a strange friendship begins to grow, only to be fortified by a US Geography project Violet was planning on not doing. Together, Violet learns how to live from a boy who wants to die, and Finch tries to remain Awake for as long as possible. Because, sometimes, Finch’s brain makes him forget things: a day, a week, a month. He goes Asleep, and he’s terrified that one day, he will never be Awake again.
“Listen, I’m the freak. I’m the weirdo. I’m the troublemaker. I start fights. I let people down. Don’t make Finch mad, whatever you do. Oh, there he goes again, in one of his moods. Moody Finch. Angry Finch. Unpredictable Finch. Crazy Finch. But I’m not a compilation of symptoms. Not a casualty of shitty parents and an even shittier chemical makeup. Not a problem. Not a diagnosis. Not an illness. Not something to be rescued. I’m a person.”
All the Bright Places made me think, made me cry, and made me realise that, although everyone feels alone at some point in their lives, we really aren’t. Theodore Finch may be a fictional character, but his mental illness and the way he struggles every day just to get out of bed are incredibly real. Even now, there’s a huge stigma on mental illness: if people can’t see it, then you’re not really “sick.” Even now, every forty seconds someone commits suicide because of mental illness or because they felt like they had no other choice. I found myself relating to Finch on every single level, from the desperate way he wants to live to the desperate way he wants to die, and when I turned the last page, I thought to myself: It’s sad, and beautiful and incredibly real.
This is also a book that caused a lot of mayhem in the book blogging community. People either loved it or hated it. Many said it ‘mocked’ mental illness, just like Green’s The Fault in Our Stars mocked cancer sufferers and survivors, and many said it was unrealistic. I disagree. In my honest opinion, All the Bright Places is the most realistic portrayal of mental illness I have encountered so far — the helplessness, the exhaustion, the desperation. Theodore Finch may not be real, but what he goes through couldn’t be more real.
I couldn’t recommend All the Bright Places highly enough.
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About the Author: 21. A reader, a writer, a reviewer and a full-time sloth lover. I am addicted to coffee and my laptop, and love reading especially when it's rainy outside.