Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Monday, January 5, 2015

Just Finished Reading ... All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven
To be published on January 6, 2015
by Knopf
Summary from Goodreads: 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.
Just an FYI:  Please tread carefully with this if you are a reader who wants to avoid reading about self-harming/suicidal thoughts and/or behavior.

My take: I started reading this book a couple weeks back and, while I loved the first few chapters (two depressed characters meet cute on a ledge and have a Virginia Woolf quote-off on Facebook) I also began to get the feeling that bad things were looming ahead and I decided to stop reading for a bit.

New year, new mood and I picked the book up again. I finished it, and liked it a lot. But I also had some thoughts and questions. Maybe that was the intent of the book -- that in a situation like this, there are always unanswered questions. I'll tell you what mine were, and also what I loved about the book.

Spoilers are hidden. Sorry there are so many!

One: This is a dual POV book and I especially loved Finch's chapters. He was such a vivid character, and one that I'll remember. Violet was harder for me to get a grasp on, and in fact (highlight for spoiler) except for the fact that I peeked ahead, if you made me guess, I would have predicted that she was the one who kills herself. (end spoiler) Maybe that's a comment on how hard it can be to understand others, but I didn't really feel like I understood Violet. I definitely wanted more information on what happened to her sister. Was that just a random accident that she happened to survive? I was somewhat distracted by my speculation. I suppose you could argue that it's Finch's story, but since Violet has half the chapters, I'd disagree.

Two: This book definitely has a TFioS feel, and on a deeper level than all the like-TFioS-because-they-are-sad books out there. There's the character who falls for the larger-than-life character, the quest (the project that Violet and Finch worked on definitely had the feel of a John Green-style quest to me. I didn't love the beginning of it, which felt a little forced, but (highlight for spoiler) I was very moved by the mini-quest that Finch leaves for Violet after he dies. It doesn't explain why he did what he did when he knew that Violet needed him, but maybe he thought he'd helped her? (end spoiler), the trajectory of the two characters' relationships, and the ending.

Three: The stuff with Finch's family muddied the waters a little for me in terms of Finch's motivations. (highlight for spoiler) Was the book suggesting that Finch's father was also bipolar? Or that his physical abuse was a contributing factor to Finch's suicide? (end spoiler) I was really disturbed by the scene in which Finch's father hits him. Finch didn't live with his father and he and his siblings were old enough that they didn't have to visit their father as far as I could see. And more importantly, since they and their mother obviously know this guy has been repeatedly abusive, why weren't they worried about their stepbrother/half-brother? This distracted me a lot. I wanted to pick up my fictional cell phone and call fictional Child Protective Services and tell someone to keep an eye on that poor kid.

That brings me to the most poignant part of the book, at least for me (yes, another spoiler- sorry!) Finch knows that Violet needs him and that his family (and that poor little kid) might need him and yet he can't bring himself to stay in this world. (end spoiler)

But all in all, I thought that All the Bright Places was a beautifully written book, a book that shows how you can connect with someone on a deep and meaningful level, and yet there can be things about that person that you can never understand. I was completely captivated by Finch's narrative voice and do think that it's fair to market this book as TFioS meets Rainbow and Park, which is not something I'd say lightly.

37 comments:

  1. You know, I really want to read this book even though it has some things in it that make me hesitate. I'm hesitant of the TFIOS-like nature of the book, but only because I'm a little bit bored with it. And I'm a little flinchy with the hitting. But I'll still read that stuff. I read a review of this book a couple of days ago that made me want to read it right away, and it made me wish I hadn't brushed it off all along. I also looked at my library's digital shelves and it appears that this author has some adult historical fiction titles that I've had my eyes on. I just didn't make the connection between this book and those historical fictions. I think I want to read this one as soon as I can grab it, now that I'm reading thoughts and it wasn't too hyped. I love all of your hidden spoilers (: They made me smile. (But I didn't look at them!)

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    1. I loved the writing, so if you're hesitant about the subject matter, definitely try one of her other books and let me know what you think!

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  2. I can't wait to read this one!!

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  3. Great questions and points that you made, I really enjoy the writing and trying to piece together what made these characters and their pain

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    1. Finch was a fantastic character. I just loved reading his chapters.

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  4. I'm sorry that you didn't like it as much as you thought you would. I'm still looking forward to this one though! Great review :)
    Kim @ Divergent Gryffindor

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    1. I think my expectations were complicated. I started out loving it and then realized it was going to be really sad. Then I went in with more guarded emotions. Loved the writing and would have appreciated more explanations. But overall, I recommend this!

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  5. Sometimes when I read books like this, I read more from a mom/protector perspective (even though I'm not a mom). I want to go in and fix things and I have a difficult time separating those feelings or understand why others (the characters) don't do that.

    Did you read Saving June? I understood what the book was trying to say but I just couldn't get into the madcap road trip adventure knowing that a grieving mom was at home worrying about he only remaining child (who was only 16!). I was over thinking lol

    So what I'm saying is - this probably isn't the book for me either although it does sound interesting.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. I definitely do get in that mindset. In this book, it did kick in a little...

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  6. I've seen so many different reviews for this book. So far yours is the first that isn't a complete five star review. While it sucks that you didn't connect with this book as much as you wanted too your review is helping me lower my expectations (which will hopefully make me like the book more?) and go with the flow. I do definitely believe you have to be in the right mood for this one and it seems like you were. Great review!

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    1. This was definitely a complicated read for me. There were things I absolutely loved about it and things I wished had been better explained . But I absolutely recommend it.

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  7. I'm always relieved when I see another critical review of a book I didn't love. It's hard because I feel like having so many questions and still thinking about a book makes for a good read. But I also can't help but think it also highlights the many, many flaws in this novel.

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    1. I guess it's always hard for me to say I "love" a book on this kind of topic. I can say that I enjoyed reading it, that I admired it as a piece of writing, that it moved me and made me think -- all yes.

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  8. I need to stay far away from this story! I think I should back out of suicide books for a while - once I finish the one I'm reading...I can see the FiOS comparison - especially in terms of the storyline, the relationship between the two and the fact that you think the outcome will be one way, and it's the other. But, I am deeply uncomfortable with equating a book about terminal cancer with someone suffering from depression/suicidal thoughts. I don't want people to read this and think they both have the same level of inevitability. The fact that this guy receives little support and is still seeing an abusive father is troubling. Though perhaps that's realistic too, and I know this is based even slightly the author's life. It just makes me unbearably sad, and having the event not start in the past, makes it feel different for me, especially in terms of the messages I'd want to see.

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    1. That's an interesting point -- most, if not all of the YA books I've read with this theme take place after the fact. Which inevitably makes it more about the friend, the sibling, etc. than about the person him or herself. So in one way I did like that about the book.

      But as we've talked about, I'm also feeling overloaded with sad books and I need some balance.

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  9. This book never really caught my attention (it's the cover I think, all those pastels) but then I started seeing the reviews. I was offered the audiobook for this and had originally passed on it, but I went back this weekend and downloaded. It sounds beautiful and sad, which can be a good combo... or a bad combo.

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    1. For me, books with great writing always make good audiobooks. Let me know what you think!

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  10. I haven't read this one so I had to skip most of the post. It sounds beautiful, but I am super sensitive to self-harm. I'm not squeamish, but that's the one subject I'm squeamish about. I'll have to decide when I'll be emotionally ready to read this one.

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  11. EVERY one is telling me to read this book but I'm terrified. I'm not a contemp fan or an issues fan but I keep hearing how beautifully done and moving this one is. I believe a friend is sending me their copy to force me to read it. I'm NERVOUS. haha. I'm glad to see that you did find it to be a good read.

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  12. Great review Jen! I like the dual pov aspect, I'm actually getting into them more. Also I like the plot and how it has a TFIOS feel.

    Plus digging that cover!

    Patrick @ The Bookshelves

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  13. I can't. I can't. I was looking forward to reading this book, but since I can never resist spoilers, I think I'm going to pass. It takes a certain reader to get through this, I don't think I have it in nowadays.

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    1. Books like this are definitely not for everyone. I didn't have it in me to read it that initial time, and then I was ready.

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  14. Hmm. The abusive half-sibling bothers me, especially because it doesn't make sense. Hmm. I'll have to see... Or maybe not if I'm following my goals of DNF books that aren't higher than 3 stars for me.

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    1. Yeah, not sure why that was included. As a contributing factor? To suggest there's a family history of mental disorders? I wasn't really sure.

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  15. I'm wary of suicide books in general. They're so depressing but I like that it gives you a chance to intimately peek at how they think, because that means you will be given a chance as well to understand them even more. But... they always have something to teach us, I think, with regards to humanity and what's important in life. I'll still try this out even if you weren't able to connect to the characters. :D So looking forward to it!

    Faye at The Social Potato

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  16. This book I'd like to read but it's one of those books that I'm a lil wary of... I don't want to suffer too much emotionally with a book nowadays!

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  17. I've heard great things about it and yes, it has been compared to TFIOS but that makes me want to read the book even more, and thus, it's on my wish list and I hope to buy it soon.

    Andreea
    http://toallthebooksivelovedbefore.wordpress.com/

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  18. I'm so nervous to start this one. Honestly, I'm scare of the feels. Sometimes I really, really love emotional books... and other times it's a struggle to get through them. I'm thinking I will enjoy this if I can just give it a chance. I'm hoping to convince myself to start the audio soon. I guess I just have to be in the right mood, or at least the right frame of mind. Great review! :)

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  19. Ahh! I've been waiting to read your review until I finished this one and wrote my review (up today). This book wrecked me. I am also thankful for all of your hidden spoilers (lol) because I feel like I haven't been able to shake this book, even 3 books later. I feel like I'm grieving for this character like an actual friend. I need to talk!

    I agree that Finch was easier to connect to. I think that the dynamic between them was interesting because when you are mentally ill, people often want you to just 'feel better' already as they do with grief. I think the dynamics of the two kinds of 'sadness' next to each other are very interesting. Grief gets better with time. Mental illness gets better with therapy. There is no mind over matter because it IS biological as well as psychological.

    I'm certain that this is one of the best (worst emotionally) books I'll read this year. Lovely, thoughtful review, Jen!

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  20. Wow, this sounds like a really emotional read. I don't mind reading emotional books and I like them about mental illness, but I do tend to spend a long time afterwards still thinking about the book. Like I did after reading The Kite Runner. This one is on my TBR, and great review! Thanks for letting us avoid the spoilers ^^

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  21. I keep reading every review I see for this one because of how badly I want to read it! I'm glad you enjoyed it, though I don't blame you for putting it down until you were ready for it. I'm sure I'm going to end up bawling no matter when I get around to it.

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  22. I'm still torn on whether or not I would like to read All The Bright Places! It's definitely the kind of book that would require me to be in a certain mood when I read it in order for me to really enjoy it, and feel for the characters. I'm glad you wound up liking most of it overall, though.

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  23. Hi. I really loved this book, and was super touched by the message as someone who has struggled through depression. In fact, I loved it so much I'm deciding to do a project on it for my AP Language class. I was wondering if someone by chance had a list of all the places finch and violet traveled to? If so please let me know. I know I could easily re-read the book, but I figured I'd first check for a shortcut.

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