Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Stephanie's Review of ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: 1/6/2015
Source: ARC from Netgalley

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this compelling, exhilarating, 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 guy 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.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

By the time I was ten, I had already written numerous songs, a poem for Parker Stevenson ("If there were a Miss America for men, You would surely win"), two autobiographies (All About Me and My Life in Indiana: I Will Never Be Happy Again), a Christmas story, several picture books (which I illustrated myself) featuring the Doodle Bugs from Outer Space, a play about Laura Ingalls Wilder's sister entitled Blindness Strikes Mary, a series of prison mysteries, a collection of short stories featuring me as the main character (an internationally famous rock star detective), and a partially finished novel about Vietnam. I was also an excellent speller from a very early age.

In 2000, I started writing full-time, and I haven't stopped... I've written eight books (two of those are forthcoming), and when I'm not working on the ninth, I'm contributing to my web magazine, Germ (, thinking up new books, and dabbling in TV. I am always writing.

Theodore Finch is the school weirdo. Despite the fact that he is charming, intelligent and interesting, his peers call him Theodore Freak. Because he's the class clown of sorts.  When the book opens, we meet Finch standing at the top of his high school's bell tower, contemplating what would happen if he jumped. At the same time we meet popular, pretty, incredibly depressed Violet Markey, who is up there for the same reason. Violet has lost her sister to a car accident, which she survived and now, Violet's entire life seems meaningless without her.  She can't move forward so she contemplates death. Finch ultimately saves Violet's life, but tells everybody that she in fact, saved his. They end up doing a class project together where they have to go see all the unknown hidden wonders of Indiana State. The unlikely duo set on these "wanderings" where they go to various random places together. (This is my favorite part of the book... I loved going on the adventures with them!) They form a strong friendship, and then eventually fall in love. As this happens, you slowly fall in love with Violet and Finch as they fall in love with each other, but you realize somewhere along the line as Violet learns to heal, for some reason Flinch spirals the opposite way. 

I absolutely loved this book. It's so beautifully written-smart, poetic and clever. The authors words seem to dance on the page and even though at some point, you figure out exactly how it will end, you want to get there anyway. However, it should be noted that this book is about  bipolar disorder. It is about attempted and successful suicide. And while it is steeped in beauty, it is also filled with a distinct sadness. This book will lift you up, and then it will break your heart. It is an extraordinary story of truth, love, life and loss. It is not to be missed. 

*just optioned for film with Elle Fanning as the lead.

5 out of 5 Stars

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