Release Date: 8th January 2015
Edition: e-proof, NetGalley review copy
The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park, All the Bright Places is a compelling and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
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 gut 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.
How far will Violet go to save the boy who she has come to love?
All the Bright Places is a debut filled with hope, life, love and friendship and it got better and better with every chapter.
The novel switches between the narratives of Violet and Finch and they were wonderfully distinct. Finch’s voice is witty, dark and caustically funny; Violet is filled with grief, slightly numbed and a writer. They fit each other beautifully. Violet lifts some of Finch’s darkness and makes him happy in a way he hasn’t been in a long time and Finch helped Violet to begin to overcome her sister’s death and get her life back on track. But that doesn’t take into account mental illness.
I didn’t realise that Finch’s personality would be so tied up in his illness. But I’m glad it was; it was powerful and a much under-represented subject in YA. Finch goes undiagnosed throughout the novel, but from my very little knowledge on the subject, it sounded like manic depression or bipolar disorder. Though I’m lucky enough not to have experienced it myself, it felt like it was being portrayed honestly and openly. The unpredictable nature, the unfairness of it, the stigma, the labels and the stereotypes. It was all there. It certainly makes you think about mental illness in a different way; and the importance of acknowledging, diagnosing and treating it.
A lot of this novel is about adventure and making discoveries about what’s right under your nose. On a school project to discover hidden secrets of the state of Indiana, Violet and Finch manage to find a group of bookmobiles, a blue hole and a lot about themselves. Each place they visited allowed them to realise the restrictions and pressure to conform that regular life requires and take them away from their everyday traumas.
Although All the Bright Places has intensely sad moments, it’s a novel about life and hope and that’s what I’ll take away from it.
Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the review copy!