All the Bright Places ~ Jennifer Niven

Theodore Finch ran into Violet Markey on top of the bell tower at school and his life was forever changed. Finch was fixated on suicide. Any well-known person who had killed themself, he knew the story. Violet had suffered through losing her sister in a car accident. Both teenagers were struggling mentally, but in a way, they saved each other. Finch became as fascinated with Violet as he was with suicide, because he knew something was not right with her, even though most people thought she was fine.

Mr. Black was one of the first people to not continue Violet’s extenuating circumstances when he forced her to work with Finch on a U.S. Geography project about the best places in Indiana. Because of his actions, Violet became close to someone she would not have otherwise. The relationship between Ultraviolet Remarkeyable and Finch changed both in ways neither could imagine. Violet stopped wearing her sister’s glasses (the ones that she did not need), grew out her bangs, and began driving again. Finch “stayed awake” for longer than he ever had before.

I had a very strong connection to this book because I have lived through the suicide of a loved one. The way suicide and mental illness were accurately portrayed in this story, made the book mean so much more to me. Tragedies in general change people, and as much as you want someone to be the same as “before,” they will always be their “after” self.

One thing I loved about this book was how each chapter was started. Finch was counting how many days he had avoided the darkness, or stayed awake. Violet was counting down the days until graduation so she could get out of Bartlett, Indiana. For the entire book, Finch counted up, but once Finch began to truly change Violet, she was no longer counting down, appreciating the day it was.

“It’s easier just to do the right thing from the start so there’s nothing to apologize for.”

For some reason, this quote spoke to me. I feel like apologies are overused and often lack meaning. Apologies give us an excuse to do something to hurt others-because we think we can fix it.

“Take out the mean parts and the bad words.”

Finch’s father abandoned his first family including Finch’s mother and two sisters, Decca and Kate, and found a new wife and son. Finch and his ten-year-old sister, Decca, often feel hurt after seeing how their father acts towards his “new son.” After one of their mandatory visits, Decca was found cutting out parts of books. More specifically, the mean and bad parts of the books. When I was reading this part of the book, my heart just felt so heavy. If only we could take the bad parts out of life, and keep the good. However, this is not the way it is. There are “bright places” in life, and it is important to learn what they are and to appreciate each and every one.

Another aspect of the book I appreciated was Finch’s family not acknowledging his mental illness. At one point, Finch says

“…in this house there’s no such thing as being sick unless you can measure it with a thermometer under the tongue.”

The fact that Finch’s family and friends simply accepted that Finch was the way he was, and never believed anything was wrong with him ultimately changed all of their lives.

Violet has parents who do not believe in punishing her, but making her suffer through conversations about what she did wrong. My parents have similar beliefs, and when Violet wished that her parents would just send her to her room, I was like “OH MY GOSH IT IS NOT JUST ME AND MY PARENTS.”

All in all, I enjoyed this book. I believe you really need to be in the right mindset to read it, but it definitely makes you think about life perspectives and how fragile everything is.

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