Today I have another book review for you and if I could give this review a sub-title it would by "The Right Book at the Wrong Time." You'll learn more about why in my review. Heads up, this review gets personal, but I'll try to keep it spoiler free.
Photo Credits: www.jenniferniven.com
SYNOPSIS (from Amazon):
"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."
This book is so difficult for me to review so I'll start with a checklist then explain why this was one of the hardest books for me to read (which may hint at spoilers so if you don't want anything given away then you can stop reading after the "Anyways..." below).
Good writing? Check.
Relate-able characters? Double check.
Well thought out plot? Check.
Researched material? Check.
Tugs at the heart? Major check.
So yes, this is an amazing book. Initially after reading it, here is the review I posted on Goodreads (Can I advertise this app enough? My goodness!):
Five star book. I stand by that. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone and not just a soft recommendation, I believe that as time goes on I will shove this book into the hands of everyone I meet. I will read this book time and time again because it is worth it. This is one of the most important books I have ever read and I will force it on all my friends and family. Read it. Just stop reading my blog and read this book now.
This book can easily be compared to The Fault in Our Stars as far as themes go. I loved TFIOS (the book, never saw the movie) but this one blew it all away. While very similar, Finch and Violet are much more relate-able than Hazel and Augustus Waters (how can you not say his full name, it's awesome). Not just in their situation but they were written as actual teenagers.
Violet and Finch are very realistic teenagers and are written as teenagers, not overly intellectual showing it was clearly written by an adult, but also not incredibly dumb-ed down showing it was clearly written by an adult... one who seems has a low opinion of teenagers (I'm looking at you, book I'm reading right now).
I'm such a fan of young adult fiction but get a bit annoyed when it's so clearly written by an adult. All The Bright Places is a smart book with smart characters, but they are a realistic teenage smart, which is something I really appreciated in this book.
All The Bright Places also has a realistic and easy-to-follow plot. It tells a story in a very clean and concise way. While this is the first book I've read by Jennifer Niven, I believe that this is one of her talents, simply based on her "Twelve Writing Tips" on her website, which I highly recommend reading if you're an aspiring author like I am.
There is sometimes a struggle with books like this where there isn't a clear ending you're working towards. Take something like Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, you know where it's headed the entire time and so each new chapter you know it will lead you closer to the ending. A book like All The Bright Places doesn't have an obvious ending it's headed towards. Yes there are hints, but for the most part you're just going along for the ride not knowing what's ahead.
In many books with this structure, where it's just a story of people's lives rather than a specific "quest", I tend to get bored. A lot of books like this often through in random fluff to help with the word count and it gets monotonous to read. I did not feel this way with All The Bright Places and this book kept me reading. I read this book fairly quickly because I could not put it down. I basically did not sleep while reading this book. Just worked and read. What a life.
I very much enjoyed this book and highly recommend it, BUT it was incredibly difficult for me to read and while I suggest you continue reading the rest of my review, if you want to avoid any and all hints at a spoiler, maybe you should stop now.
As I mentioned this was also the hardest book I've ever read. The reason for that is that it touches heavily on the topic of teenage suicide and mental health, both of which are things I have personal experience with.
At the age of 17 I attempted suicide and I can tell you right now that the emotions someone feels during something like that are portrayed incredibly accurately in this book. Suicidal tendencies and mental health is a serious topic and as someone with a personal knowledge of it, this book handled it very well and accurately.
The problem was not the book. The problem was me. With my depression I have the annoying ability to "absorb" the emotions of people around me. If I'm in an upbeat environment I feel happy and when I'm around people who are sad, I get sad. Basically if anyone cries around me, I'll be crying too. Not to mention already dealing with my own depression, which makes feeling other people's sadness only harder on me.
When reading this book the same thing happened. I very easily felt the emotions being described in this book. I literally had to stop reading in the middle of the night, pull my husband off the couch where he had fallen asleep, and have him hold me until I could regain control over my emotions. It wasn't about being sad because of what was happening in the book, it was literally feeling what the characters were. And it was terrifying.
Now I feel so strongly about the importance of this book and if I had read it at a better time in my life I would not have reacted so negatively. But (in case you're new to my blog) I had a miscarriage last November and since then my depression has been at it's absolute worst. Even when I was seventeen and wanting to kill myself I did not feel emotional pain like I have this year.
THIS WAS THE RIGHT BOOK AT THE WRONG TIME.
This book is perfect. I want to buy it, I want it to be mine, I want to frame it in my home, I want to buy hundreds of copies and send one to each and every one of you, but I should not have read it at this time in my life.
I finished it about a week ago and I have been recovering since. Part of me wanted to write up this review right away but I was too emotional. And then people spoiled Me Before You to me and I was also angry. Just a mess of emotions really. Still am a bit. Story of 2016 for me.
Overall I recommend this book so much. I realize that's a weird sentence, but it's 100% true.
UPDATE: Jennifer Niven replied to my Tweet about this post, so she's basically my new favorite author. Yep.
What were your thoughts on All The Bright Places? Let me know in the comments below!