All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Boy meets girl-on a ledge. Violet was considering throwing herself off, but then Finch, who is no
stranger to suicidal thoughts himself, convinces her not to. Thus begins the love story of Violet and Finch, two smart, troubled teenagers living in small-town Indiana. Finch has lived with the darkness for a long time. He's basically been bullied by everyone in his life, starting with his father, for as long as he can remember. Living with a physically abusive parent doesn't exactly make for a rosy childhood. Violet has recently descended into the dark places Finch knows so well. Her sister was killed in a car accident, and it seems like everyone and everything she loved before is meaningless to her now. She and her sister hosted a blog together, which means that even writing, which used to be an escape for her, is tainted. Because of a school project, Finch and Violet end up spending a lot of time together, and before long they are deeply in love. But sometimes, love isn't enough to keep the darkness at bay.

Without going into too much more detail, let's just say this book is tragic. Like, "ugly-cry" tragic. Finch and Violet are both excellently written as characters, and you root for them to overcome their issues. Finch especially seems almost too good to be true. He is pretty consistently more considerate and kind than I'd expect most anyone to be, but especially a mentally ill 17 year-old boy. Finch really helps Violet see that to go on living is the only way to honor her sister, and that rather than withdrawing from the world until she can escape her small town and its painful memories, she should focus on living each day to the fullest. For her part, Violet helps draw Finch out of himself, getting him out of his own head and back into the world of the living. Sounds great, right? It is-for a while (cue ugly-crying).

This YA novel deals with some pretty heavy adult issues, namely mental illness and suicide, but Niven makes them understandable for younger readers. And really, as recent studies have shown, more and more teenagers are dealing with exactly the kind of depression and anxiety disorders that plague Finch and Violet. The story is a testament to anyone who has ever felt despair and overwhelming desperation. It also shows that even when you love someone, that person is ultimately responsible for their own choices. I think one of the messages Niven is sending to young people is that it is not your job to fix someone else, and that some problems are too big for one person, no matter how deeply they love the other, to deal with on their own. One of our protagonists learned this lesson a little too late, but because of a message left behind, they are able to let go of some of the guilt they'd been holding onto. While there is not a happy ending, Niven does leave us with a sense that, at least for one of the characters, things will eventually be OK.


  1. This makes me want to read a genre that I am not even considering right now. I love this blog; I haven't taken up blogging since I had my blog project I kept up back in '12 - It's just a gathering place for all writing and all writers. I like the idea of this though. And maybe when I need a break with novel writing, I'll consider making one of my own. Great job on this!

    1. Thanks, Kevin! I do love the writing-it makes me happy. I've got to make sure I am disciplined enough to keep up with it from now on!


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