All the Bright Places

18460392by Jennifer Niven
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

I’ll admit, the cover drew me to this book. The beautiful jacket and the whimsical embossed hardcover all demanded I take it home! This is one of those heart-wrenching bittersweet reads that makes you think (and cry).

Violet is counting the days until graduation. Nothing is the same without her older sister, Eleanor, who was killed in a car accident the previous year. Finch thinks about dying every day, but manages to find reasons to stay alive one day at a time. The two of them meet in the school’s bell tower, on the ledge–and they leave together, too. When a school project has them seeking out the “wonders of Indiana” they both start to see things differently.

As a Midwestern girl, I can say the commentary on life in flyover country is completely spot-on. Niven had me cracking up! The idea of “the largest ball of paint” and other obscure “tourism” sites is so true to life. I enjoyed the school project and the challenge it presented about perspective both to Violet and Finch and to me.

Of course, this is also a story of suicide, and survivors of suicide. This taboo subject is close to the heart of the author, as her deeply personal acknowledgment note explains. For me, this made the story emotionally authentic, which is something I worry about when “quirky” meets “serious issues.” Nothing happened for dramatic effect, Finch’s struggles weren’t cheapened, and Violet’s journey was nearly autobiographical.  The best part of this book is that it provides a way to talk about something that is viewed with shame, stigma, and blame–to everyone involved. It becomes so clear that the worst thing you can do is not talk about it, and that’s something everyone needs to know. There is help, no matter how dark things seem.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, All the Bright Places is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – A star-crossed romance between Hazel and Gus, two teens with different cancers, different outlooks on life, and the realization that no amount of snarky banter or dismal diagnoses will stop them from dating. Both funny and emotional, with plenty of introspection. See my review here.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Another heart-breaking romance between two teens who don’t believe in love, yet can’t help falling for each other. Eleanor is from the wrong side of the tracks; Park is the nerdy Asian American that nobody likes–but even he is smart enough not to befriend outcast Eleanor. Until he realizes she might be the only person who understands him. See my review here.
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord – Vivi and her artist mother are spending the summer in beachside town Verona Cove. Jonah is cute enough to be the perfect summer fling. But as Vivi and Jonah start to share what they’re running from, they’ll have to decide if their problems will bring them closer or drive them apart. See my review here.
  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – Paige’s is aware that high school is all about labels. And hers is “The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned.” With the help of her grandmother and girlfriends, she hopes to turn this year into something better, and find a way to heal. See my review here.
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