All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – 2 stars
Published by Knopf in January 2015
Young Adult, Contemporary
“You are all the colors in one, at full brightness.”
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he 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.
From the Goodreads synopsis:
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.
I love three out of five of these authors. And I didn’t particularly enjoy this book.
Yes, I had fun. Yes, it delivered everything it promised in the blurb. But it was too much like Eleanor and Park, TFIOS, If I Stay, Thirteen Reasons Why, etc. In fact, it felt like a mix of all these books – a monster book designed to be a tearjerker. And strangely, these oh-so-sad books never seem to spark anything in me.
Look, we do need more representative books like this one. Suicide, mental illness, grief, abuse, you name it, this book has it. And Niven’s author note at the end of the book put things into perspective and softened me. It was a beautiful little thing.
But I still have to list a couple of things I didn’t like:
- Theodore Finch is an interesting enough character, but he comes across as a Manic Pixie Dream Boy (is that a thing? Probably not). And his story started out well, but Violet makes it all go downhill.
- Also, Finch basically lives for Violet, and I believe this is kind of problematic. You might think it’s “cute”, but think: if a girl was living just because she met a boy, wouldn’t they call her weak? Wouldn’t everyone think she was pathetic?
- As a character, Violet Markey feels completely useless. Not at all remarkey-able, as Finch puts it. She’s pretty. She cries. She used to like writing. But who is she really? It didn’t feel like she was a real person, just a plot device there to push Finch’s story forward. Obviously the book would have been like five pages if she hadn’t been in it – and I get that this is a love story – but I just can’t bring myself to like her.
Of course, it wasn’t all like this. I can’t stop you from reading this book, and if you read some of its other reviews on Goodreads, you’ll find that a lot of people thought it was great. I actually found myself hooked at the beginning! But when I read the ending, I started seeing things in a different light.
Did you cry a lot with TFIOS? Do you love sad contemporaries? This book is for you. Pick up a copy and prepare some tissues and chocolate. But it just wasn’t for me.