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You guys. This book. Seriously.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven has been sitting on my shelf for a while. It’s on my 2016 reading list, and I have been looking forward to reading it. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get to it, but I am so so so glad I read this book. I feel like this should be required reading for all high school students. For reals.
Okay. So the plot. Violet is a cute girl from the cool crowd who has gone through a pretty horrific family tragedy. Finch is the class freak who is dealing with some intense mental health issues. They meet one day at the top of the school’s bell tower as they each contemplate committing suicide. They don’t, but their moment together ties their future in a way that neither could have expected. Their journey together definitely goes beyond the typical high school relationship. I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll spend the rest of the review raving.
Violet and Finch are both written so well. They are characters who are real, flawed, make mistakes, and say and do some pretty harsh things. Yet, I love them both. Finch in particular is such a funny guy, he reminds me a lot of several people that I knew in high school. I love Violet’s intelligence and her passion for writing, and I loved watching her grow as a character. I became connected to these characters, which is how you know that they are written well. I cared about what happened to them. I was angry on their behalf. And I cried when they suffered.
In addition to creating two amazing characters, Niven has told a story that I think is so important, and so not talked about in our society. Mental health issues, especially in teenagers, are so taboo, but they are such a vital topic. Finch doesn’t want to deal with his issues because he doesn’t want to be labeled, and it’s honestly a legitimate concern knowing how our society operates. Niven handles the topic so beautifully. It is not cheesy or preachy at all. It’s just real.
One of the reasons I love reading young adult literature so much is that (most of) these books handle tough topics in a way that is much more relatable than adult fiction. All the Bright Places definitely does that. If I were still teaching high school English, this would be a book I would be putting on my class reading list. This is a serious novel about something serious, but it has so much heart. Pick it up and check it out, just make sure you have some Kleenex handy.