Get your tissues ready for one of the best and saddest books we’ve reviewed so far! Check out Bryan and Robert’s review of All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.
Bryan’s quick summary:
Theodore Finch is obsessed with death, constantly wondering all the ways he might kill himself. Violet Markey aches with grief and counts down the days until graduation and escape from her small Indiana town. When Finch meets Violet on the ledge of their school’s bell tower, the boy known as “the freak” saves the popular girl, even though the papers think it’s the other way around. The two are paired on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of Indiana, but before the assignment is over, they’ll learn more about each other, what they’re capable of, and both how much love can heal and how little it can do to stop the inevitable.
All The Bright Places is by Jennifer Niven
So what did we think? (From a reader’s perspective)
1. (Bryan) This is one heck of a book. It’s well-written, the characters are fully realized, and the subject matter is important. Unlike The Fault in Our Stars, All the Bright Places is more actionable, and I think it should be read in every high school.
2. (Robert) Wow! This tops TFIOS for me, as a deeply insightful foray into not just young and tragic love, but the world of relationships, social perceptions, mental illness, abusive parents … and suicide. The adult concepts are strong, and there are certainly some f-bombs, as well as sexual content, but having said that, this would be a wonderful book for the 16 and over – or maybe younger if depressed.
3. (Bryan) What a character in Finch, he’s heartbreakingly complex, and you wish there was something you could do to intervene and make him see and feel the impact of his actions.
What did we think from a writer’s perspective?
1. (Bryan) Two first person perspectives really help us to get at the entire story from both main characters. I think it adds a lot to the readers feeling more present in the story.
2. (Robert) There’s a lot to learn about the finessing here too – Finch’s disturbing thoughts and his helplessness is a theme unto itself, as is the school bullying, the parental relationships, Finch’s different “characters”, the secondary characters, the places they visit in across Indiana. Depth aplenty!
3. (Bryan) In almost every way, it really is a better The Fault in Our Stars, right down to the hunt at the end for clues after tragic events, and I think this one does better because it stays more grounded in reality. No trips to Europe. Just to the state’s highest point.
Bryan and Robert’s Famous Takeaways:
1. If you’re going to cause your readers immense pain, earn it through deep investment in the characters.
2. While this book doesn’t wear its heart on its sleeve, it’s written with plenty of heart. It could change lives.
3. The book is so finely written – sensitively written – and edited, I’d (Robert) love to have been a fly on the wall of the process. One of those books that will stay in your mind. I woke up the next morning with my head full, and still quite emotional, after finishing it the last thing before going to sleep.
Prompt of the Week:
What would you do if you realized a friend had an undiagnosed mental illness? How would you make sure your efforts didn’t do more harm than good?