All The Bright Places By Jennifer Niven

I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.

This book contains material that may be triggering for sensitive readers.
All The Bright Places By Jennifer NivenAll The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
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.



About Jennifer Niven

By the time I was ten, I had already written numerous songs, a poem for Parker Stevenson (“If there were a Miss America for men, You would surely win”), two autobiographies (All About Me and My Life in Indiana: I Will Never Be Happy Again), a Christmas story, several picture books (which I illustrated myself) featuring the Doodle Bugs from Outer Space, a play about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s sister entitled Blindness Strikes Mary, a series of prison mysteries, a collection of short stories featuring me as the main character (an internationally famous rock star detective), and a partially finished novel about Vietnam. I was also an excellent speller from a very early age.


10 responses to “All The Bright Places By Jennifer Niven

  1. I’ve seen so much about this book but knowing the summary and book subject matter I’m not thinking it’s for me. I’ve dealt with loss recently and just…nope. Think I’ll be skipping this one. Wonderful review Kate. It’s nice to see a view from the other side.

  2. You make a good point about Finch being the MPDG of the story and how it seems uncharacteristic of a novel with such dark overtones. I really enjoyed the book after getting through the first quarter of it, but I see where you’re coming from. Great review, Kate!

  3. Oh, I haven’t read this book (and The Last Time We Say Goodbye) yet, but it’s interesting to read another opinion about it since everyone seems to love All the Bright Places. I don’t think I’m gonna read this book anytime soon, though. I just can’t deal with sad reads right now. Nice review, Kate. 🙂

  4. I’ve seen quite a few conflicting reviews for this one, so I’ll be going in with a degree of caution. Suicide is a tricky topic to depict, and you don’t necessarily want to have so many quips that it trivialises the issue. And the quirky, manic-pixie-dream-person characters are getting quite pervasive and annoying, at least for me.

  5. I was just at an event with Jennifer Niven and started looking up reviews of this book. This might be something I get from the library I do kind of like the Manic Pixie Dream Guy, but I’m not sure how I’ll like the dark subject matter.

  6. I always like reading reviews that don’t agree with the norm. Not just because I like seeing different perspectives but it also makes my expectations a little more realistic. Until now, it felt like everyone loved this book and my expectations were getting away from me. So thanks for sharing your thoughts! I do plan on giving this one a try – I am waiting on it at the library – so we shall see where I fall. Regardless I am definitely going to read The Last Time We Say Goodbye too since that one was such a hit for you.

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