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 is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.
“Sometimes, Ultraviolet, things feel true to us even if they’re not.”
This was a good book. I know, I know, very articulate. Why am I a book blogger again?
I loved this book and didn’t love this book at the same time. Two troubled teenagers fall in love and help each other heal. It’s a familiar trope that has been adamantly explored in YA for years. In that aspect, the book was predictable but that didn’t stop it from being an emotional tear-jerker/heart-breaker that made me unable to study for finals because I needed to know what would happen even though I kind of already had an idea. Whew, that was a long sentence. The writing is also fabulous, very similar to John Green, with its existential dialogues and quirky main characters.
Theodore Finch is obsessed with death, more specifically suicide. He is constantly thinking about suicide. He knows all the random facts about suicide, the most common methods, chances of success, types of people who try, etc. He sometimes gets into one of these moods where he feels like he’s almost fading and that he’s just trapped in his body without having any control over it. And when he snaps out of those periods, he calls it the Awake.
He struggles with his family dynamic. His father left his mom and his two sisters and now has another family with a wife and another son. His mother works two jobs to keep them financially stable; the divorce hit her hard so she’s always tired and a little aloof. His father was/is abusive and Finch thinks a big cause of his condition is because of his “chemical make-up” referring to the genes he got from his father.
Violet Markey has just lost her older sister Eleanor a few months ago in a car crash that she survived. She has survivor’s guilt and has lost all motivation to do things she had previously enjoyed. She was a cheerleader, writer and blogger (a blog she ran with her sister).
On his good days, Finch is energetic, quirky and a little impulsive. Finch pushes Violet to live again, to not let the car crash keep defining who she is. He encourages her, gives her a gentle tug (and the occasional hard shove) towards life and happiness.
I don’t have first hand experience with either depression or profound grief but it’s important to understand these feelings and this book does a good job on expressing them. On the Acknowledgements page, Jennifer Niven says All the Bright Places is loosely based on her own life story, which explains how she conveyed these emotions so well. Although I felt like I couldn’t related to either of the two main characters, I understood them both. I understood what drove them to do things that they did.
Violet and Finch are not characters but people, two imperfect human beings with pent up anger and love and loss. And it’s when a character becomes a person in your eyes that you know they are developed well.
Why this book didn’t get a five star has to do more with me and less with the book. I loved this book but it didn’t surprise me, it didn’t make me curl up in a ball and cry in a corner, it felt familiar but not new.