Wednesday, April 1, 2015

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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.

My Thoughts:  (Mild spoilers)

I don't ever remember being so conflicted by a book.  I'm not usually a fan of these types of books, but my challenge for myself this year was to read 5 books outside my comfort zone.  That being said, I chose a bad time to read this - a friend of mine (we weren't super close, but he was such a nice person and I truly cared for him) recently committed suicide.  There were no warnings, no signs, nothing.

I don't even know where to start on this.  So please bear with me?  Finch (the school "freak") and Violet (token popular girl with sad back story) meet on a bell tower at school.  Finch is there because he is trying to figure out how he wants to kill himself.  He does this a lot - thinks of a way to die, backs out because it's not for him.  Violet doesn't remember going up there, but gets scared when she realizes where she is.  He saves her, but the school thinks otherwise.

Ok.  I'm already annoyed.  Sorry.  It's already starting off completely unoriginal (except for the "how will I kill myself" part).  Freak meets Miss Popularity and they are drawn together or end up together somehow.  Violet and Finch end up together because of a school project. Their teacher assigns a project and he declares that Violet should work with him.  So it shall be.  They work together.  Finch, our tragic hero, helps Violet overcome obstacles of her past with these grand gestures that, if I'm honest, are just too unbelievable.

Here's where my internal struggle comes in:
Finch is super depressed and suicidal, yet he is so happy go lucky when he is with Violet.  I just don't get that, but I know it is how some people are because I have seen the aftermath in real life...  He really is just unreadable.  I never got a good feel for him.  He goes into these "dark times" where he either disappears, or something, and no one seems to care.  "It's just his thing."  No.  That is a sign that there is something seriously wrong with this kid and the fact that NO ONE sees that is just maddening!

Violet.  Dear, sweet Violet – using your sister's death as a means to get out of school work.  I understand that when you lose someone that close to you, things just don't seem important anymore. But (and please don't stone me) there comes a time when you can't have that crutch anymore.  There comes a time when you just have to start living again, and I just didn't really buy her story.  I'm not belittling it, at least I'm not trying to.  I don't know what it's like to lose a direct family member.  What I do know, is that you can't/shouldn't ever let your life be dictated by it.  If that seems heartless, I am truly, deeply sorry.

Charlie.  This guy should have had so much more page time.  He was there in the beginning, and then the end... He is funny, and I think he should have been a bigger character than he was.

So, in short, I just don't get this book.

There are parts of this books that I rolled my eyes at.  I'll give you a few examples:
--Finch takes a bunch of sleeping pills, waits a little bit, then runs to the Emergency Room and tells the nurse he took a bunch of pills and can't get them out.  When he wakes up, he is handed a form that has his half-brother’s name and Finch's age.  The nurse asks him to fill this out, but Finch just walks out when the nurse leaves.  Rrrrrright.

--The fact that they argue over who has it worse... Give me a break.  Everyone is entitled to their own pain. "I'm broken!" "No, I'm broken!"

--Violet references a girl at a party, and how her "voice goes slutty".  Is this a thing??  How exactly does one’s voice “go slutty”?

--They are both so "weird" and quirky that it's just ridiculous.

There are a couple of lines that stood out to me, because they are relatable, either in my present situation, or in the past.

"Maybe even the smallest places mean something." (They do, we just don’t realize until much later.)

"I learned that there is good in this world, if you look hard enough for it.  I learned that not everyone is disappointing." (Made me think of Mr. Rogers – which in turn made me cry.)

On a more personal note:  I am a firm believer that suicide is never the answer and I sincerely hope that you pay attention to the people around you.  PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE!!!


Sexual Content: moderate/heavy (not too graphic)
Violence: moderate
Language: heavy
Drugs/Alcohol: mild - a couple parties

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