All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: Two unlikely friends discover they have more in common than each might think in this emotional book about when life gets too tough
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: January 2015
Publisher: Penguin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0141357034

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Finch and Violet are both counting the days. Violet is on countdown to graduation, to getting away from the school and town that hold so many torturous memories. Finch, meanwhile has started from zero and is logging the number of days in a row he is awake. And he doesn’t mean that in terms of physically awake, but more so in terms of his emotions. Neither of them are particularly happy. At least one of them has a plan to make the pain stop in the most final way possible. It’s pretty horrific.

I’m oddly intrigued by suicide books, partly because I do a lot of work on suicide and child and adolescent mental health as part of my day job, and partly because I don’t remember quite so many books being quite so daring in this regard when I was an official young adult. We had lots of divorce and occasionally people died, but the frank approach to teens wanting to take their own lives just wasn’t talked (or written) about in the way it is now, in books such as this and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga and so on.

In this book Finch sort of wants to die, but seems to be finding almost insignificant reasons not to go through with it – it would be a horrible mess for someone to clear up, and so on. This may seem flippant but I thought it was quite an important point to make as it resonates with so many stories of suicidal intention where someone doesn’t necessarily want to die, but they just don’t want to live. It’s a subtle difference, and it comes through in this book.

Finch and Violet are both character characters by which I mean they are written to be different, quirky, broken, whatever. It would be easy to say this fits in with mental health stereotypes, but the thing with Violet is she wasn’t always this way. Something happened. Something changed her. She didn’t see it coming, and she didn’t see the aftermath, either, as it crept up. Things are fine one minute and changed completely the next. It could have happened to anyone. Their friendship is a bit forced initially – a school project ties them together beyond their first, explosive encounter – but we needed something to keep them bound to each other for the story, and this does work to explain how two completely different people end up part of each other’s lives.

I thought this book portrayed depression well. The pain was raw but it was the description of Finch’s symptoms that I thought really shone through, and the idea of him being awake but sleepwalking through life, alive but not really living did work. This book could end only one of two ways, and indeed it did. It was…appropriate. Perhaps a tiny bit predictable. But worthy. I think Finch and Violet would approve.

Despite the subject matter, this is a lovely book to read. It’s quite upbeat (bordering on too much so, but not quite crossing that line) and there are some lovely touches like all the Virginia Woolf quotes. The writing is fluid and though the story slows and then speeds up, it never quite gets to the point of stopping and then restarting. Due to the subject matter I’m not sure I could say I would recommend it for those whose own problems approach those of Finch and Violet, but for any teens trying to figure out what friends or class mates might be going through, I imagine it could be quite insightful.

I’d like to thank the publishers for supplying this book.

I loved Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult as another read for teens that makes you think about the big stuff. It has an American, gun control slant to it but it’s highly relevant whichever side of the pond you are on.

Buy All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven at Amazon.com.


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