Are you an authentic book lover? Do you read books of all genres? Can you accept the fact that not all books have a happy ending? If so, then you are in for a treat. “All the Bright Places” by Jenifer Niven is just the book for you. If you have previously read “The Fault in our Stars” by John Green, you are familiar with the type of story Niven is going to narrate.
First, we will talk a bit about the author who wrote such an intricate book. Jennifer Niven is the Emmy Award-winning #1 New York Times and International bestselling author of ten books. These include All the Bright Places and Holding up the Universe.
Her books have been translated into over 75 languages. All the Bright Places has won literary awards around the world, including the GoodReads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Fiction of 2015. It was named a Best Book of the Year by Time Magazine, NPR, the Guardian, Publisher’s Weekly, YALSA, Barnes & Noble, BuzzFeed, the New York Public Library, and others. It was also the #1 Kids’ Indie Next Book for Winter 14-’15.
Now we will come to the story. All the Bright Places is a book that brings people face to face with the fact that despite your love for someone, it isn’t always possible to save them. You will never look at anything in the same way after reading this book.
The main characters are a girl called Violet Markey and Theodore Finch. 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. On the other hand, Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation. This is so that she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
Violet and Finch meet on the top of the bell tower when both are contemplating suicide and it is unclear who saves who, but they both survive. The characters like to think that they can save each other. They think that love covers up all their pain and if they both put everything into each other, they can save the other.
The book gently touches on first love and how quickly you can fall for someone, but also the pain that comes when your idea of forever ends after a few months. It also explores the difficulty of teenage years and how easy it is to give your all to someone and then have it all taken away.
As you turn the pages of this book you get more and more attached to the characters. You want, for their sake, their relationship to have the happy ending they are longing for. They are both so young and their lives so complicated. However, they are in love with the idea of love. So they give this relationship a try.
Then fate intervened. Later that same day, in U.S. Geography, Finch chooses Violet as his partner for the “Wander Indiana” project. Violet tries to get out of the project, but their teacher tells her it’s time to “get back on the camel.” Finch then remembers the accident.
In an effort to get to know Violet, Finch opens a Facebook account and sends her a Friend request which she accepts. But when Finch posts a video to her page of him singing a song about a boy jumping from a roof, she demands he remove it.
They meet up, and Violet tells Finch that the day on the ledge would have been her sister’s nineteenth birthday, but nothing much matters anymore. Finch insists something must matter or she would have jumped.
Their first wandering is to Hoosier Hill, the highest point in Indiana. When Finch takes Violet’s hand to pull her up to the elevation marker, she feels a little shocked at the touch of his hand. During this time, over the course of the next wanderings, their friendship and mutual attraction grow. They grow closer and closer as they both frantically try to give the other a reason to live. A reason before it is too late.
Finch is so obsessed with death but for Violet, he finds reasons to live. Violet is so consumed with guilt but for Finch, she puts the past behind her. They both try. Both of them want to make it work. They both want to live for the other.
While doing the project, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries. It is only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who is not such a freak after all. And it is only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them.
The days pass by. Violet falls in love with Finch. She falls in love with the way Finch sees the world. She falls in love with the way Finch walks, talks, laughs, snorts, and all of it. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
Finch, we learn, has an abusive father, who no longer lives with them, and a mother who’s in denial of his suffering. He is ostracized by his peers who label him a “freak,” in part because of his struggle under the weight of mental illness.
While in the manic state of his undiagnosed bipolar disorder, Finch struggles to remain there, to “stay Awake” to not Sleep for Violet’s sake. He is obsessed with thoughts of suicide, and rearranges his bedroom to make a smaller space, eventually moving into his closet. Smaller spaces feel safer, when the Asleep is coming.
Love can never fix everything though. I think that throughout the text the characters start to learn this. But they will not let themselves believe it. This is because they want this relationship to be enough to keep them both alive.
On the first warm day, Finch takes Violet to the Blue Hole, a three-acre lake. When Finch, who has a preoccupation with water, dives under and holds his breath for a long time, Violet becomes frightened and then angry.
Finch tells her to let it all out, and she confides in him about the angry person inside of her. He tells her about the scar on his stomach, and his dad’s dark moods.
Back at Finch’s house after their swim, the “Someday” that Finch and Violet have been talking about has come, and they make love. On the way back to Violet’s house, Finch detours to Purina Tower where they climb to the top and wrap themselves in a blanket.
They both fall asleep, and awaken the next morning realizing that Violet’s parents have no idea where she is. Her parents have panicked, and though Finch tries frantically to smooth things over, they tell him to go away, and they forbid Violet from seeing him again.
Finch begins to slip further into his depressive, withdrawn Sleep state when he is “denied access” to Violet, who has become his reason to Stay Awake. One night, he takes too many sleeping pills, but then having second thoughts, tries to throw them up. Somehow, he gets himself to the hospital, where they pump his stomach.
After that, he attends a ‘Life Is Life’ meeting and sees Amanda Monk there, a fellow student and girlfriend of Roamer, who is Finch’s nemesis. He learns that Amanda is bulimic and has attempted suicide twice.
Meanwhile, Violet, concerned about Finch whom she hasn’t heard from in several days, drives herself to his house. He confesses that he sometimes has dark moods he can’t shake, and asks Violet to keep his secret just as he has kept hers.
Amanda confides in Violet that Finch has attempted suicide. When Violet talks to Finch about it, Finch’s mood turns dark, and he tells her that she couldn’t save Eleanor and she can’t save him. In anger, Violet leaves.
When she returns home, she tells her parents everything—that Finch is the one who saved her from the ledge, and that he needs help. They try to reach Finch’s parents. But Finch’s mom tells them it’s just what he does sometimes.
Finch disappears. He has been gone for several weeks. Violet receives a series of texts from him, then silence. She tries to move on, starts her new online magazine, Germ, and expands her circle of friends at school.
Kate, Finch’s older sister, appears at Violet’s front door on a Sunday morning, wondering if Violet has heard from him. He has not checked in this week, as he has been doing regularly every Saturday. Kate shows Violet a weird email she received from him that morning, but Violet admits that she and Finch aren’t in touch any longer.
Violet logs onto Facebook, and finds a message from Finch, also sent that morning, quoting from The Waves, by Virginia Woolf. He signs off with these words, “‘Come,’ I say, ‘come.’” Violet types “Stay,” I say, “stay.” Finch does not reply.
She drives to Finch’s house after meeting both Brenda and Charlie, Finch’s friends. Apparently, have also received strange emails from him recently. Violet searches Finch’s room for clues to where he has gone: a place with water. Finch’s mom asks Violet to go bring him home.
The book constantly explores life and death. It shows the reader just how valid life is. This book also comes with an overpowering message of doing everything before it is too late. It shows that the thought of ‘what could have been’ can destroy a person.
As Violet suspects, divers find Finch’s body in the Blue Hole. At the funeral, Violet talks to Finch in her head. She tells him that he was the one who showed her how to make the most out of life.
She meets with Mr. Embry who tells her she’s a survivor and gives her a booklet, SOS: A Handbook for Survivors of Suicide. Violet knows that she is forever changed. She decides to finish their wanderings and uses clues from Finch’s last series of texts. In this way, she finds the places he had added to the map.
Violet then reaches the Taylor Prayer Chapel, their last wandering site. There, she finds a note and musical score addressed to her from Finch, tucked in the chapel’s Bible. She memorizes the words, returns home, and plays the notes on her flute.
At the end of the story, we are with Violet at the Blue Hole. She thinks about the epitaph she has written for Finch. Eventually, she comes to the realization that her own epitaph is yet to be written. Treading water under the wide, blue sky, she dreams of all the places she has yet to wander.
Overall, the book is a must-read. Your longing for the characters to pull through keeps you turning page after page; you can’t put it down. It is one of those books that you still remember months after reading it.
This is because the characters and the storyline they followed touched your heart in a way that you can’t forget them. It is a book that you can link back to your own life.
It reminds you how fragile everything is and how important it is to treasure every moment with a loved one before it can be snatched away. You will never look at anything in the same way after reading this book; it changes your view about everything.