Author: Jennifer Niven
After finishing this book, I am distraught. And highly upset. My review could end here.
But it won’t.
Wow, what a beautiful book. What beautiful writing. Maybe I am biased because I am an absolute sucker for American YA fiction but I don’t care. I have met yet another character, by name of Theodore Finch, who has made a room for himself in my heart and moved in comfortably without my permission. What can I say about him? He’s the hottest male YA character since Augustus Waters. Even crazier. And I love, love crazy.
When @Chelsea_AO entered my Whatsapp to tell me to read this book, alarms went off immediately – because her recommendation was accompanied by smiley faces as well as a broken-heart emoji. The alarms only rang louder when I went on Goodreads to find a synopsis that called it a cross between The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) and Eleanor and Park (Rainbow Rowell). Neither of these books ended well, in my opinion. The alarms in my head became earth-shattering when I caught the gist of the book and its characters: suicidal teens. And what did I do? I went ahead and read it anyway.
To tell you the truth, this book was the most exhilarating book I have read in a very long time. Quite a paradox to be affected so positively by a book about suicidal teens. And I know it is because I read it partially through one of the most exhilarating characters in my memory, possibly ever: Theodore Finch.
The story is told through alternating perspectives of 2 characters: Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. Jennifer Niven possibly did an even better job of thoroughly being both characters than Veronica Roth did with Allegiant. Nevertheless, for reasons that I think should be obvious when you read the book, it is Finch that hooked me and dragged me down with him into the depths of his very-far-from-normal mind.
What I liked a lot about how Jennifer Niven handled the issues of suicide, bereavement, guilt, post-traumatic stress and bipolar disorder is how she was so intimate with the way characters dealt with them, but more importantly, descriptive, not prescriptive. Or rather, shall I say descriptive before prescriptive. This is important because it is not sensible for the world to jump into trying to solve things they don’t understand. (Even if sometimes, understanding something could mean getting rid of the delusion that you understand it.)
I have to say that as ridiculously exciting as reading Finch was, it was also creepily eerie, the way he poured out suicide facts and quotes as casually as if he was describing ingredients of his favorite recipes – how suicide attempts were frequent and nearly mindless, and the battle between wanting to live versus being hauled in the opposite direction by his own brain. I have probably never read a character so dangerous. (Okay, dangerous to himself. As for dangerous to other people, Drake Merwin of Michael Grant’s Gone series takes the cake. Voldemort is not evil next to that boy.)
I love reading things that make me want to read more things! And All the Bright Places definitely made me want to read about, and the works of, Virginia Woolf. And I cannot deny the very present allusion to Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar. I haven’t read it yet, but The Bell Jar is definitely moving upwards in my “to read next” list. Plath and Woolf. Some of the world’s most famous literature suicides. What a book All the Bright Places was, honestly.
Yes, of course I want people to read this book. But not without knowing that if your heart and mind are not prepared, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble.
Quotes I liked from actual authors, which I learned through this book:
“Writing is so difficult that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.” – Jessamyn West
“My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery – always buzzing, humming, soaring, roaring, diving and then buried in mud. And why? What’s this passion for?” – Virginia Woolf