All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven / ★★★☆☆
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and is constantly dreaming up different ways of killing himself. Violet Markey just wants to get through life after the loss of her sister. They meet on the ledge of a bell tower.
It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.
Genre: Contemporary/Young Adult
I’m conflicted about this book. On the one hand, I felt rather manipulated by it. On the other, I know the author had very heartfelt intentions in writing it, which, normally, doesn’t necessarily affect my reviews of books, but I’m letting this one get to me. And on the THIRD hand, this book did drag a bit.
I had gone into this book hoping for something unique, but it didn’t take me long to realize how this book was going to end, and when I did, I nearly quit the book. BUT because I’m terrible at quitting books and I did like the characters, I kept going, but I held myself at a distance, because I knew what this book was going to throw at me. When the blurb on this book says its “The Fault in our Stars meets Eleanor and Park” it’s really not exaggerating. I’m not a huge fan of either of those books, but like I’d said, I went into this book hoping it might be something a bit different, since I’d seen so many great reviews of it.
The first half of the book I did enjoy, was entertained by and flew through quickly. I liked the characters – Finch especially – but once I really felt like I was getting into the plot, the romance kicked in and it draaaagged. Finch’s intentions were so overt, and the romantic scenes were standard and and full of rather cliche, preachy conversations. I mean, maybe I’d have enjoyed this more as a teen, but like I’ve said before, I’ve never been a fan of preachy dialogue, when you can hear the author’s intentions for the reader through the words of their characters. The second half of the book got slow, and I skimmed a lot.
But when I read the author’s note at the end and realized that this story did, in fact, have an element of truth to her real life, I felt a little less manipulated and more “oh, these things do happen” and it softened my heart. I’ve read reviews that say this book romanticizes mental health problems, but I felt like it’s more of a representation of coping with mental health problems- sometimes you have to romanticize your life a bit in order to deal, and I liked that aspect of this book.
To summarize: I was enjoying it, then I was angry, then I was bored, and then I was sad when I read the author’s note. 3 stars to the book, 5 stars to the author’s note.
I loved Finch. I thought he was hilarious, and I loved how smart he was, and any feelings of pain I had toward this book were attributed to him. Without Finch, this book would have fallen flat for me. THOUGH I will say his quirkiness got a bit too…”YA character quirky” at times, and his intentions toward Violet were a bit too contrived by the plot.
I liked Violet too, and I enjoyed her character development, though it was her half of the story that bored me more. I was never really invested in their romance either, especially since I knew the “point” of it, and where it would lead. But as characters, and as personalities together, they worked well, and I liked them.
I really liked Niven’s writing style, her writing flowed and I really liked her descriptions and how she writes dialogue. And she does humor very well. It’s just the pacing of events that had me dragging at times.
Was I satisfied?
This book wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before, though I was hoping it would be. I liked the characters, especially Finch, but the plot was a bit too contrived, and it bored me by the end. The author’s note softened my heart, though.