Thursday, June 4, 2015

Book Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Release date: January 6, 2015
Info about the author: GoodreadsWebsite
Publisher: Knopf
Age group: YA
Pages: 388
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!
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.

The hype around this book, both prior to its publication and after it, hasn't gone unmissed by me. Though I am not a big fan of the whole “for the fans of The Fault in Our Stars” marketing line that seems to be connected to every single YA contemporary with some sort of sad subject matter, I was curious about this one. A huge amount of positive reviews promised good things... but unfortunately I was left disappointed.

We are introduced to Finch and Violet, a boy and a girl who totally different social groups within the hierarchy of high school. Everyone knows Finch as a freak – people are never sure what he will do next. A load of rumors about him circulate in the school – he is a drug addict, he is suicidal. Violet hangs out with the “cool” gang, but she has been miserable since her older sister died in a car accident. One day, Finch and Violet meet in the bell tower of their high school and establish a connection that ends up becoming a significant one for both of them.

I love characters that are out of the norm, characters that are quirky and special. I desperately hoped that Finch and Violet would be characters like that, but unfortunately I felt like they both were kind of fake – too quirky, too special, like their characterization had been taken a step too far. Throughout this book, especially with Finch, I felt like he was too pretentious, quoting Virginia Woolf, writing song lyrics and changing his identity several times. Sometimes he talks with a British accent, sometimes he pretends he's from Australia. Some of these quirks are arguably part of his mental health problems, but still, it was extremely difficult to connect or feel anything for a character that is all over the place.

Violet was easier to character to connect with, but whereas Finch's characterisation was taken too far, I think in general, Violet was a bit bland. I did not like her, but I did not dislike her either – really, I did not feel that much for her at all. Rather than seeing the connection between Violet and Finch as romantic, I just saw it as sad – throughout the novel I felt like Violet did not quite know what she was getting herself into.

I think this is my fourth book this year that deals with suicide. I always want to point out in reviews for books that deal with suicidal characters or the aftermath of suicide the personal connection that I have to the subject matter, just because I feel like it always has an effect on my reading experience. Suicide is something we all understand differently and something that we all deal with in our own ways. The way Niven discusses suicide in this novel just wasn't for me. It does not mean that she does not deal it with well, it just means that I was not able to find a connection with it. I was expecting tears and ugly crying, but ended up leaving this book with dry eyes.

All the Bright Places is well written and I appreciate the author for having the courage to write about stigmatized issues with honesty. I in no way want to call All the Bright Places a bad book. Rather, I want to call it a book that wasn't for me, but that might be extremely significant for someone else.

1 comment:

  1. you know, yours is the first review that I have seen that has given this 2 stars. I have been going back and forth with whether I want to read this or not, and I had many of the same concerns/thoughts you had based on what I have seen of the book. Maybe I will hold off.

    Great Review!

    Michelle @ Book Briefs


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