Book Reviews

All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven (Book Review)

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Suicide. Depression. Mental illness. 
If you want to read a story based on but loosely involving these themes, read All the Bright Places.

I struggled through the initial 40-45% of the book, breezed through 50-80% and then trudged my way through the end. I’ve got mixed feelings. I liked it, but I had issues with it.

Theodore Finch and Violet Markey are two broken kids, who fit each other. This single statement sums up the entirety of the book. I’ve seen multiple variations and takes on this trope, both in YA and adult. Two broken people slowly fall in love, and it’s a well known fact that mostly such books end in tragedy.

Violet is haunted by the death of her sister, which has changed her life forever. Theodore is different; called the ‘freak’ by his peers, left by his father and dealing with depression. Both meet on the roof of their school building (I think?) and save each other’s life. Both quote Virginia Woolf, both come off as slightly different than the regular teen, and both are dealing with grief. Thus begins a journey, a journey to all the “wanders” in Indiana, and on a deeper level, a journey of their love and life.

I was expecting the book to deal more with mental illness, but it heavily focused on the romance. The author romanticized the whole affair, and I think the book could have been better handled had there been no romance, or rather, had there been no Violet Markey. I don’t like how authors add romance to everything; would it be completely impossible for both of them to support each other, heal each other, but not fall in love?

It was only at the very end that there was some highlight on mental illness – which Theodore is suffering from. Depression is what Violet goes through, and the author has thrown in a suicide in the end, just to make the book more heartbreaking and sad. What actually happens is a mush of everything – and the result not so good.

The writing is the saving grace. It’s good, strong writing which speaks to you and moves you. It’s not pretentious, but neither is it shallow or casual. It is the perfect mixture of emotions and aloofness.

Overall, I could say I liked the book. I wasn’t super-impressed with it, I’ve seen better books dealing with the same issues. A good one-time read, definitely not going to re-read.

 

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