I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.
Published by Random House on January 6, 2015
Genres: Young Adult
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.
Violet and Finch are both in a lot of pain, and their meeting sets the tone for a book that I found to be profoundly sad at times. Violet is still trying to navigate life after the death of her sister. While she has distanced herself from her pre-loss life, much of her school and social life stays intact, or at least it seems that way. Inside, however, she feels very much separated from her life “before”. Finch, on the other hand, revels in his persona as a The Weird Kid. I think that his parts of the book were probably my favorite because through his inner dialogue, which was beautifully written, I was really able to see how deeply he was suffering. His inner voice was quite dark and it may be triggering for readers who suffer from depression, have suicidal thoughts, or have suffered physical abuse. Slowly, Violet and Finch grow closer and while we began the book with the idea that Violet was in danger from herself, it becomes quite apparent that Finch suffers, as well.
There were so many things that I found problematic or, at the very least, distracting about this story. Finch takes the role of the Manic Pixie Dream Guy, rescuing Violet from ledges, both literal and metaphorical, and showing her how to live her life through a series of quirky road trips, while hiding his own brokeness. Really, all of this would have worked, and has worked in other books, but its pairing with such dark subject matter just didn’t sit well with me this time. It was as if the story felt the need to apologize for its darkness by injecting a dry humor that just fell a little flat and even seemed to make too light of a heavy subject. As the ending approached, I saw what was going to happen and it was very, very sad. However, that emotion was dulled by a series of overly sappy occurrences that took me from tearing up to rolling my eyes. I suppose what I’m saying is that this story was just trying too hard to shove the idea that THERE IS HOPE into my mind. It made the story uneven and it less real. I understand that this book came from a personal place for the author and I know that this story has been a huge hit with a lot of people, and that is great. I think this subject matter is one we should talk about more often, but when I think about books like The Last Time We Say Goodbye that really dig deep into grief an then ably pull the reader back to a place of hope, I just have to say that All The Bright Places didn’t quite measure up, in my opinion. However, I realize I am a bit of a black sheep with this opinion and while I didn’t hate this book, it isn’t one that really worked for me.