Alysun Sanders

Enter the mind of an aspiring author!

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

This is another book that took me by surprise, but in a completely different way. I went into this one expecting a YA romance/coming of age story. And, I mean… I guess that’s kind of what I got. But not in the way I was expecting. In this book you have two perspectives. Finch, who is suffering with some form of mental illness, which I believe is depression. And Violet, who is dealing with the loss of her older sister in a tragic car accident.

Contemplating suicide on the school roof is how the story starts for both of these characters. And Finch becomes so fascinated with Violet that he forces himself into her life. The two become partners on this school project about wandering their state, checking out the famous landmarks surrounding them. They mention several places, one of which being the largest ball of paint (checked it out via google… super cool). And during these wanderings, Violet faces the loss of her sister and conquers her fears about driving, while Finch starts feeling more alive than he’s felt in a long time.

It was a beautiful love story. Until… it wasn’t beautiful anymore. Spoilers, you guys. Finch does not make it to the end of the story. His depression begins to return, only this time… he can’t beat it. He loves Violet. Really loves her. But she’s not enough. He kills himself. And I was so angry. I wanted to stop reading it. I wanted to shelve the book and never think about it again. How could Finch do that? How could he kill himself after everything he experienced with Violet? I was furious.

But you know? That’s the point! I think you’re supposed to be angry. But if you’re angry with Finch, then you didn’t get the message. Finch talks about how he’s been bullied his whole life. By kids at school. By this father. And when it happens, he kind of just shuts down. I actually took a few things away from this book. Suicide can be prevented. It’s in how we treat each other. If the kids at the school hadn’t been so hateful about Finch, and if his father would have shown he cared, and if his mother would’ve taken the time to actually look… Finch probably wouldn’t have killed himself.

The story was so tragic. Broke my heart. But I loved how Finch’s life, and then his death, gave Violet courage. She was a completely different character at the end of the book than she was at the beginning. She blossomed into a fearless woman. She faced the death of her sister and her own survivors guilt. And she was able to move on. Losing Finch made everything come full circle for her. I admired her strength at the end of the novel.

This is not a book I would reread. I’m sorry. It was just too sad. And I’m not really into sad books. Tearjerkers and I do not mix. But despite that, I think it’s a book that should be read. The twist ending with Finch’s suicide upset me, but it was necessary to portray the very important message of how suicide can be prevented by being kind to one another.

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