All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – Book Review

Back in May, my ex-boss called me. Even though she’s my ex-boss, we’re still good friends and talk to each other frequently. The reason she called was to put forth a proposition. We will take photos of our book shelf and send it to each other. Then we can pick out books we haven’t read from the other’s book shelf and exchange them. Of course I loved this idea and she sent me around 8 books (none of which I have read till now!!). All The Bright Places is the first book which I picked up from that stack few days back.

Theodore Finch has an abusive father, suffers from depression and thinks about suicide almost on a daily basis. Violet lost her sister to an accident and still hasn’t recovered from it emotionally. Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the school’s bell tower. Both are ready to jump but Finch ends up talking Violet out of it and saving her life. Finch then begins to insert himself into Violet’s life so as to make sure she’s doing fine. Their relationship grows from being strangers to being friends and then lovers. As Violet’s world starts to grow, Finch’s begin to shrink. Will they be able to save each other?

After a really long time, I read a book in 2 sittings. There is no mystery. There are no action packed scenes. I’m not sure I would even call it fast paced. But the book still had me in its grip. The book just grew on me and I don’t even know how it happened. Finch’s and Violet’s characters are so life like that they are still in my head. There have been books that kept me awake in the night because I wanted to finish reading them. But this is the first book that kept me awake after I finished reading it. Everything was still going around in my head and I just couldn’t sleep.

There was never a moment when I felt this book was just average. I was there right along with Finch and Violet throughout the book. Finch was so adorable with Violet. My favorite was his nickname for her – Ultraviolet Remarkey-able! And he calls Violet “my Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect”! Finch gives us small facts about suicide in almost every chapter. My heart went out to him whenever I read these. Even more heart breaking was knowing that Finch wanted to live and he keeps finding reasons, however small they may be, not to commit suicide. If only he could get the help he needed!

Finch also talks about how mental illness is not normally seen as a disease. It is so true. Some people don’t accept that a person is sick unless it is physical. How is it that we have reached the Mars but our mindset is still so backward in these matters? He also talks about being labeled. It’s so easy to label someone but do we ever think about the effect it has on the other person?

Violet is a strong character. If I had to go through everything that she did, I don’t know if I could have held on. Violet also reminded me that it’s not just the person with mental illness who suffers but also their loved ones especially when they don’t know what they can do to help. How can you help when you don’t even know that there is something wrong?

The book also reminded me that it’s not just the socially awkward or the odd one in a group who could be suffering. The most popular boy/girl in the school could also be going through the same thing. They’re just better at hiding/disguising it. Haven’t we failed as a society if those with mental health issues feel the need to hide their illness?

The only thing that I felt missing in the book is a background on Finch’s mother. We don’t get to know more about her. Why she does what she does or more importantly why she didn’t do what needed to be done. She is going through her own ordeal. More insight into her character would have been remarkable.

However, the book is still perfect the way it is. This book has found a place in my top 10 reads this year. Even though this is also the longest review I have written so far, I feel like I still have more to say about the book.

My Rating: 5⭐.

I don’t normally remember or make note of quotes in any book. But this book is an exception. I will leave you with a few quotes that moved me.

“The great thing about this life of ours is that you can be someone different to everybody.”

“Ultraviolet Remarkey-able, I think I love you.”

“You know what I like about you, Ultraviolet Remarkey-able? Everything.”

“You are all the colors in one, at full brightness.”

“The next day it was all over school, and I was officially Theodore Freak. One year later, I grew out of my clothes because, it turns out, growing fourteen inches in a summer is easy. It’s growing out of a label that’s hard.”

“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 recognizable disease just to make it simple for me and also for them. Anything would be better than the truth: I shut down again.”

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