All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
This review will contain spoilers! There are also triggers for suicide in this review.
All The Bright Places was a book I heard great things about. It was recommended by many of my friends, and also by a popular YouTuber that I occasionally watch (Zoella, for those of you that are interested).
I won’t normally talk about covers of novels, but this one immediately caught my eye. Although I hate the cardboard-like texture that the publishers used for the post-it notes on the cover. Bare that in mind if you’re buying this edition.
My nitpicking aside, I adored this book. I’m always a sucker for the romance genre, but when it’s so strikingly contrasted by angst and depression, the love becomes a tangible real life thing.
There are two main protagonists in All The Bright Places – Finch and Violet. These two meet on the top of their school, where Finch keeps Violet from committing suicide. This leads on to friendship, and then one of the most real relationships that I’ve read in a young adult novel.
Finch is depressed and suicidal. He feels as if he’s an unfixable kind of broken. None of these feelings really ever disappear for him, even if Violet does help him. I was crying at the end of the story, sobbing harder than I maybe ever have done at a book. Finch does die, he chooses to end his own life. And somehow that’s one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve read.
To me, the book addresses the inevitability of death in a careful, well thought out way. Violet’s sister Eleanor died in a car crash a year before the story starts, and we see the toll that it has had on the Markey’s in perfect detail. No impact is left unspoken, which makes this story even more poignant.
Normally I would go into the stories and personalities surrounding background characters, but none of them honestly stuck with me once the book was slotted back into its place on my shelf. This is fair enough, given the lifelike characteristics of Finch and Violet. None of the other characters really stand out compared to them.
Which leaves me with the ending. Finch’s suicide, Violet’s reaction and the stigma left behind. Finch leaves his clothing behind in a neat, meticulous pile. Immediately Violet knows, but she remains in denial until she phones Finch’s mother.
“That’s not him. That’s someone else. This swollen, bloated, blue thing with the dead, dead skin is not anyone I know or recognise.”
In all, this book was truly a testament to how cruel love can turn out to be. It made me cry, laugh and feel lucky to enjoy life. A definite five stars.
Follow Jennifer Niven on Twitter @jenniferniven
(Sorry for the poor lighting in the photographs)