Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Knopf, January 6th 2015
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.
Now that I’m nearly twenty two, I’ve bypassed more than a few phases all book lovers have to go through in order to reach reading nirvana. I started with the I’m-going-to-read-nothing-but-Harry-Potter phase, got lost a little in the sexy-vampire-fic phase, and spent a good number of years in the everyone-is-reading-it-so-I-must-read-it-too phase. Surprisingly enough, the latter of the three was the hardest to shake. I devoured hundreds of books my first few years of college, most of them young adult fiction. They were quick reads with relatable plots and a slew of kick-ass characters. Unfortunately, the downside to devouring so many books was more than a few blurred memories.
But there was one book that stood out in my memory.
I re-read All the Bright Places after letting it sit on my shelf for nearly two years. The story follows in dual points-of-view between Finch, a boy obsessed with his inevitable death, and Violet, a girl who is struggling to move on after the death of her sister. They both meet at the top of their school’s bell tower contemplating what it’s like to jump and end their lives. Finch talks Violet down, and immediately invests himself in finding out why she was up there. He convinces her to be his partner in a school geography project and takes her on quirky trips around Indiana he calls “wanderings.”
“Stars in the sky, stars on the ground. It’s hard to tell where the sky ends and the earth begins. I feel the need to say something grand and poetic, but the only thing I come up with is ‘It’s lovely.’”
The first time around, the book shook me to its core. For two characters that struggle with thoughts of suicide and grief, Jennifer Niven breathes incredible life into both of them. I have never read a young adult where two characters click so well. Their relationship grows and blossoms with the narrative, full of quirks and Virginia Woolf quotes. Their characterizations were not over the top. It was just the right amount of clever dialogue and complexity. I absolutely fell in love with Finch. He made me laugh out loud and moved me to tears.
I have Jennifer Niven to thank for giving me a young adult novel I could take with me into adulthood. Even the second time through, I felt myself drinking in each page, eagerly flipping to the next.