Book Review: All the Bright Places


Lauren Thomason, Reporter

Teenagers all over the world struggle with depression. Although one in five teens experience this illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, it is not necessarily the hot topic at the dinner table. Fortunately, Jennifer Niven’s newest novel, All the Bright Places, sheds light on this difficult topic in a meaningful and thought provoking way–and there’s even a bit of romance and excitement mixed in. The book only recently came out on January 6, 2015 and already is set to become a movie starring Elle Fanning as Violet Markey.

Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet on the ledge of the school tower with the same suicidal intent, but as this is only the beginning of their story, they are each able to come down from the bell tower and embark on an entirely different and less lethal adventure. They soon become partners for a geography project that takes them all over Indiana to the most unusual places. With Finch’s condition that they must leave something behind everywhere they go, and Violet’s that they must travel by bike, the two teens start their journey/peregrination with the result of getting to know one another better as they explore their home state of Indiana.

In the eyes of their fellow high schoolers, Violet Markey is the popular former cheerleader with a fairly recent tragedy weighing her down. She was in a car accident with her sister. While she survived, her sister did not. Though Violet is popular and everyone wants to be her friend or her shoulder to cry on, Finch is an outcast. He’s the weird kid that changes his identity every few months and would show up to school painted red for no apparent reason. While Violet has a plethora of friends, Finch only has two. Violet’s parents are very involved in her life, while Finch’s mom is not involved at all. Despite all their differences, they manage to become great friends as the story progresses.

This story of love and friendship follows them through the ups and downs of their lives for the next few months. As Violet benefits immensely from having Finch in her life, Finch seems to not be getting much better and suffers much more with these ups and downs. Their story encounters some bumps in the road and switches between their points of view to give the reader a holistic idea of what is going on in their heads as the events take place. The novel ends on a sad, but realistic and hopeful note.

This book is one that you simply cannot read without being affected. It brings awareness to the struggles and realities that go along with depression for teens today. Jennifer Niven’s writing is impeccable and allows you to fully immerse yourself in the book. One piece of the novel that is particularly impacting is when Finch ponders his fears. He thinks to himself, “I’m most afraid of Just be careful. I’m most afraid of the Long Drop. I’m most afraid of Asleep and impending, weightless doom. I’m most afraid of me.”

Although the bad boy meets good girl aspect is a bit cliché, the book certainly isn’t. You will quickly realize that the two teenagers are just people trying to find their place in the world. When you get to know these unusual yet relatable characters, you cannot help but love their story.

You will see exactly why this book already warrants a movie deal, as you find yourself laughing along with Finch and his Ultraviolet Remarkey-able, during their awkward teenage encounters, crying along with them as they struggle, and rooting for them in the fight to make it to adulthood.