Title: All The Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Knopf Books
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Hardcover, 388 Pages
Published January 2015
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Summary: 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.A good blogger friend of mine named Ana from over at Ana Loves grabbed me a copy of this book at BookCon this past May. We were about to meet up but were both waiting on separate signing lines when she asked if any of us wanted anything from the signing line she was on (we were all in a group chat and planning to meet up later that day). When she mentioned All the Bright Places, I recognized the book as one that had been sitting on my TBR for awhile, so I asked for a copy. Ana surprised me by even getting it signed and personalized! So once again, thank you Ana for getting me a signed and personalized copy of this book! You rock! :D
Okay, now time to start reviewing it. I didn't notice that this book had similarities right away, but a few reviews on Goodreads that I scrolled through pointed them right out to me. Violet - the protagonist's name - is a color. So is Hazel, from The Fault in Our Stars. Theodore Finch - her possible companion and semi-close friend - is a name that sounds like it could come from a 19th century book. The same could be said for the name Augustus Waters. Both the Violet/Finch and Hazel/Gus combos are smart, deep thinkers with a deep knowledge and love for old and/or profound authors. Both books take serious diseases (cancer/suicide) and try to make light of the dark situation through the main characters' actions.
Normally some slight parallels in books don't bother me, but this one tugged at me a little bit. I'm a huge fan of The Fault in Our Stars and looking back on this book after I've finished it, I definitely see more than a few key similarities. I am not saying that Jennifer Niven stole the TFiOS plot. I am just saying that they were pretty similar and therefore I felt that the book was a bit predictable at times. Speaking of predictable...
This paragraph contains major spoilers. Please proceed to the next paragraph if you have not read this book yet. Okay, so the ending. I knew that if the story continued to follow the TFiOS parallel, Violet and Finch would start off as strangers (yep), become friends with the girl hesitating at first while the guy jumped right into it (yeah), suddenly form a quirky and deep and intellectual relationship (yes), and then the female protagonist's love interest would get sick and die (affirmative). And since this book is about suicide, naturally that meant that Finch's sickness would be suicidal thoughts and he would take his own life. (I'm sad to say that this was the case.) For some reason, that really, really upset me. Not so much on a boo-hoo level, but on a what-the-heck level. The entire book, Finch spends his time teaching Violet all there is to love about life and all that she has to live for. He even starts improving his own mood. And then he just commits suicide! What the heck?????? He's a hypocrite if I ever did see one. I know that suicidal thoughts are mental health issues and are regarded as a medical condition, but then why would Niven make the reader think he's getting better and make him out to be the biggest hypocrite of all time? He basically tells Violet, "Suicide is not the answer. Look at how amazing life is and all you have to stay alive for." And then he drowns himself and leaves Violet hurt and alone and pain-stricken all over again, even after knowing the went through the same thing with her sister.
So, yeah. Those parts really frustrated me - those and the major parallel with TFiOS are the reasons that kept me from rating this book any higher than three stars.
But this book wasn't all bad. It was nice to see Violet running a blog, especially because I'm a blogger myself and can relate to all of that stuff, especially all of the idea-building. A creative writing blog with life tips and more with a whole panel of girls actually sounds like something pretty awesome, and if I wasn't a book blogger and wanted to change my path I would definitely do something like that. (But not to worry, because I'm a book blogger through and through and I'm going to stay that way!)
Niven has a nice writing style, too. You were able to tell which parts of the story were in Finch's point of view and which were in Violet's without having to read the chapter's title. Niven gave both characters distinct voices and personalities, and that's where this book varied from TFiOS - in that story, we only heard both characters' struggles through one point of view. In All the Bright Places, the reader gets to comprehend each character's struggles from their own thoughts and situations and voice. It broadens your understanding of the entire story, which is nice.
All in all, All the Bright Places was a book that I enjoyed reading. Besides the parallels to The Fault in Our Stars that left me feeling a bit let down and confused, the book was an enjoyable read that lead readers through the struggles of depression, suicide, and losing people that you care about most. I definitely think everyone should give this book a try because it covers all of those previously mentioned important topics and helps readers understand more about mental health and how it truly affects the people dealing with it.