Thursday, January 8, 2015

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

I’m flat out, over-the-top, madly in love with my friends (sorry, but they aren’t characters) Theodore Finch and Violet Markey.  Finch and Violet are going to keep you up late at night, they‘re going to interrupt your work, and they’re going to make you wonder why the rest of the world is acting like nothing happened.

All the Bright Places opens with Finch standing at the edge of his school’s bell tower, six stories above the ground. He wonders if this will be the day – the day he lets the air carry him away “until there’s nothing.” The ledge he’s on is about four inches wide and he’s holding his arms out and shouting when he notices a girl, also on the ledge. He realizes that he knows who she is and says. “Come her often? Because this is kind of my spot and I don’t remember seeing you here before.”

Back on terra firma, and no, I’m not going to tell you how they got down, Finch and Violet are paired together on a geography project exploring the natural wonders of Indiana. They begin wandering and discover each other. They shouldn’t fall in love:  Violet is popular; Finch isn’t. Half the school calls him “Theodore Freak” and a good girl like Violet doesn’t belong with someone like him. Finch may be suicidal but he lives in the present and appreciates new experiences. Violet is living just to finish the school year, graduate, and get out of their small Indiana town.  She’s grieving her sister’s death and can’t embrace the present. As they wander, Violet opens up to new experiences and love and Finch’s world becomes “ultraviolet.”  

Wandering Indiana’s bizarre, out-of-the-way places leads to finding the out-of-the way places within. This reader was surprised that one of those places was the monastery and gardens just a few blocks from my home. It’s where I vote and sometimes where my walks lead me and it’s what some of us call “interesting.”  Niven’s description of it is quite simply perfect.  That she could so precisely capture this spot explained why all the other places she described, places I’d never been, seemed so real to me. I had visited them all – I saw them through Violet and Finch’s eyes.

Summing it Up: All the Bright Places is a universal love story yet it’s as fresh as biting into an orange on a cold winter’s day. As each section explodes in your mouth, you’re reminded of the beauty of simply living.  A novel dealing with mental illness, depression and suicide doesn’t usually surprise you and make you laugh but All the Bright Places will do that and more.  If you enjoy reading Gayle Forman, John Green, and Rainbow Rowell, you’ll want to read All the Bright Places. This book is simply “lovely” as Violet and Finch might say.  It makes me want to hug my kids, eat carryout from Happy Family Chinese, go on a picnic, and remember that it isn't what you take, it’s what you leave that matters. Read the first chapter and I can almost guarantee you’ll read the book.

Note: Yes, All the Bright Places will be a movie and Elle Fanning will play Violet. 

Rating: 5 stars   

Ages 15 and Up

Category: Diet Coke and Gummi Bears, Fiction, Five Stars, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Book Club

Publication date: January 6, 2014


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