Friday, 9 January 2015

Review for All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven 
Publisher: Penguin
Release: 8th January 2015
Genre: YA, Mental Illness, Grief
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"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. How far will Violet go to save the boy she has come to love?"

All The Bright Places is a book that has received a lot of advanced hype and I can certainly see why! It’s a hugely important book and is one of the best books I’ve read about mental health. Within the first few chapters I found myself quickly jotting down passages that stood out to me. Fans of books like “The Fault In Our Stars” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” are going to love wandering with Finch and Violet as they explore life, death and love.

For me, Finch was the brightest part of this story. He doesn’t like to put labels on who he is but it quickly becomes apparent that something is wrong. His moods are either ridiculously high or very low and he has an unhealthy obsession with death and suicide. To me it was clear early on that Finch has bipolar but it’s a label he struggles to accept throughout the book.

As somebody who has had a lot of experience with mental health I thought that All The Bright Places handled the topic incredibly well. Finch really questions how much of his actions and feelings are his illness and how much is just Finch. As well as seeing bipolar through Finch’s point of view we also get to see how society deals with mental illness which is where this book really shines. I found myself nodding along as Jennifer Niven examines how mental illness is perceived compared to physical illnesses, from ignorant classmates who’d call Finch a “freak” to parents who put his behaviour down to being a typical teenager. This book portrays the sadly all too common story of somebody struggling alone and in silence with a mental illness. Seeing how badly Finch was let down by the people around him completely shattered my heart.

The only reason this book is just shy from a 5 star rating from me is because as much as I liked Violet’s character I didn’t think that her side of the story was as strong or as developed as Finch’s chapters. Throughout the book we see Violet learn to live again after the death of her sister but her overcoming her problems felt very forced to me. I didn’t feel like we got to see her thought process behind the changes and so they felt quite random to read rather than a natural development. I felt like this got better towards the end of the novel but I would have liked to have seen it throughout.

Overall All The Bright Places made a huge impact on me and I think it’ll be a real eye opener on what it’s like to live with a mental illness for a lot of readers. Although it’s still early on in the year I can see this one still being a favourite of mine come the end of 2015.

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