Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven


This book hurt to read. It is the story of Finch and Violet, who meet on the top of the bell tower at school when one of them saves the other one’s life. From there, its a love story. But, it’s also a story about dealing with tragedy and with things that have happened to you. It is also a book about mental illness and suicide. The writing is great. Finch is charming and Violet is awesome. The romance is precious. I’m glad I read it. Behind the cut is spoiler city.


There were things I liked about this book and things I didn’t like about this book. This list is largely things I didn’t like. First, the weather was very confusing to me. It was set in Indiana at the beginning of the year and…they did a lot of outside stuff without any mention of coats or hats or how cold they felt. I really had trouble with the sense of place, especially at the beginning, and that was really distracting.

Second, and this is probably a point in the book’s favor, even if it was bad for me personally, in some of the chapters from Finch’s perspective, the energy and lack of control and everything Finch had to get done and wanted to do and worried he couldn’t do or whatever just exploded off the page. I’m not bipolar, but being in his head was a little too much like being in my head sometimes and after reading his chapters I’d have to get up and do something because he just shot my anxiety through the ceiling. This was a terrible before-bed read. (And, this is entirely on me, but it took me waaayyy toooooo looooong to figure that out.)

Third, this book ended with me being so mad at nearly every adult in Violet and Finch’s life. Every. Single. Fucking. One of them. Excuse my language. But, dear god, he told you where his Mom worked, if you think he’s going to hurt himself, GO TO THE BOOKSTORE WHERE HIS MOM WORKS AND ASK FOR HER, instead of leaving a million messages but not following up. GAH. And, I’m so conflicted about Finch’s Mom. Clearly, she’s having a tough time. Also, Finch’s dad was clearly abusive to him and I don’t think his abuse ended there, but…c’mon, man. Your son doesn’t come down to dinner and sleeps in his closet and you’re fine with that? Your son is a senior and should be graduating but is not in school or home and only checking in once a week and you’re okay with that? I think about her character and try to give her space because she’s clearly going through some stuff but… it’s hard. This book was hard. And, I don’t have kids and who knows what I’d do in any of the situations the adults find themselves in this book. I hope I’d do better, but I don’t know. And, just thinking about that is hard, too.

The same with his teachers and the principal and the counselors. Our school system puts a lot of burden on teachers. It breaks my heart that some of them witnessed Finch’s suffering and did very little about it. But, what else could they have done? How could they have helped? This seemed like a pretty big high school, so I don’t know how many kids each of these adults were seeing and interacting with everyday. I don’t know what else is going on in the school or in their lives. This isn’t a book about them, after all. Again. This book was hard. And, I wanted it so badly to end differently.

Oh, and while we’re talking about the end: I’m so mad at Finch’s Mom for sending Violet to find him alone. If you can’t go because you don’t want to find your son dead, okay, that makes sense, but don’t send his 17 year old girlfriend alone. That’s terrible. One of my flatmates in college tried to kill herself and I wasn’t alone when I found her but I still remember that night very clearly. It was awful. I think Violet in the narrative did her best and I think, in the world beyond the book that she’ll be okay, but believe me when I say: No one should have to deal with that. But, if anyone has to, it probably shouldn’t be the 17 year old alone knowing that if she finds what she fears she’ll find that she’ll then have to call and tell his Mother. Ugh.

But, then the subject matter of suicide is hard. And, the societal stigma of mental illness is hard and awful and needs to go. This book, man. It really got to me.

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