I feel as though the authors of books that are both terribly sad and touchingly inspirational will never cease to amaze me with the depth and rawness of their writing. Jennifer Niven, the author of All The Bright Places, is no exception.
Niven cuts directly to the heart from the first line of the book until the final page. Her characters are so realistic that you feel as if they are telling you the story themselves rather than through words on a page. Narrated from the perspectives of Theodore (“Finch”) and Violet, two high school students each struggling with their own emotional walls, the novel digs into the depths of adolescent minds consumed by thoughts too deep and dark for anyone that young to have to handle.
Finch has a soft soul that is utterly torn to pieces by the horrors of the world. When he is not in an almost comatose state of depression, he is weighing the merits of different ways to die. On the day he meets Violet, Finch is standing at the top of the school bell tower, trying to decide if jumping off would be a respectable death for himself, and whether or not it would be convenient for the people in his life. Just as Finch decides that the mess he would leave behind is too much for his school to clean up, he spots Violet on the shallow ledge.
Violet climbed to the top of the bell tower on that fateful day during a subconscious trance of depression and guilt brought on by recent tragic events in her life that she feels overwhelmingly responsible for. Terrified for her safety as she realizes the enormity of her situation, Violet is saved by Finch, and the two eventually become friends.
The novel follows their journey of love and hate for oneself and life, documenting the ups and downs of their emotions and thoughts.
I would recommend this book to anyone emotionally strong enough to finish it. (If you were able to get through and enjoy The Fault In Our Stars or any other novel by John Green, you should be fine.) All The Bright Places highlights the importance of addressing the mental and emotional health of young people. Whether you are struggling with these issues in your life or not, this novel will open you up to an entirely new perspective on feelings and empathy.