All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Published in 2015 by Penguin
My copy: Library
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. How far will Violet go to save the boy she has come to love?
I have heard a lot of good things about this young adult novel, and was keen to read it. As with several other young adult novels I have read – Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell springs to mind – the chapters are told more or less alternately by each of the two characters, which I think works well here as we need to hear both sides of this story. Violet is lost following the death of her sister, and is struggling to get on with her life, but for me Finch is the really fascinating character in the novel.
He is at turns irritating, funny, quirky, weird, sexy, confusing and annoying – but it is this mish-mash of character traits that makes him real, and makes us want to find out more about him. It is clear from the very start of the book that he has some mental health issues, but the book gradually gives away more about him and his family life and this works very well and helps to build up tension in the book, as you know something dramatic is bound to happen.
I also liked the way the friendship – and eventually more – grows between these two characters. There is something about them that makes you feel like they are meant to be together, and you find yourself rooting for them even though you know it won’t be plain-sailing…
As much as I liked Finch and the relationship between him and Violet, I have to admit I did find some parts of the book to be quite slow. The middle section meandered along a bit and it did feel like I was just waiting for the book to reach it’s inevitable climax. The quotes about suicide, and the details about Violet and Finch’s little road trips added to the story, but did get a bit boring at times.
Despite this, All The Bright Things is a very well written and touching novel. The characters are quirky and endearing, and you do feel for the two narrators throughout the novel. I thought some of the family members were a bit two-dimensional, which was a shame, but overall I think this is a good young adult novel which deals very sensitively with some serious issues. And it’s no surprise to hear this book is to be made into a film!