Characters – 5/5
Plot – 5/5
Setting – 5/5
Style – 5/5
Overall – 5/5
“The thing I realise is, that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.”
ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES tells the story of love-struck Finch and Violet, as the unlikely couple meet on the edge of the school bell tower, neither certain if they really want to jump. Still grieving painfully after the tragic death of her older sister, Violet’s depression is crushing her with an iron-grip, while Finch constantly re-invents himself to find a reason to stay awake every single day.
Built completely around Violet and Finch, the plot has a simple premise that allows the personality and prose to shine through. Brought together for what they expect to be a lame school project, the pair are sentenced to wander Indiana and learn what their state has to offer. As Violet slowly begins to reconcile with her loss and start to live again with Finch’s coaxing, Finch is struggling to hold it together and pulls further and further away. The parallels between their lives are both healing and heartbreaking, set against the background of Finch’s exciting and imaginative wandering sites.
Violet and Finch are both wonderfully complex and well developed characters in every aspect. They feel like real people with real actions and emotions; their presence just leaps off the page. Reading their story felt like experiencing it all first hand, with a relationship so beautifully crafted it makes you ache. Both Finch and Violet have distinct voices when narrating their own chapters, and are brought to life with quirks that make them unique in personality too. There is nothing cheesy or embarrassing about their romance, just an honest telling of the lives of these fully-fleshed teenagers.
While some of the other characters are little lacking in the same all-encompassing depth and emotional complexity, I really didn’t mind. This is completely Violet and Finch’s story, everyone else falling away to show how truly wrapped up in each other they become.
Jennifer Niven’s style is simply stunning. Each sentence, paragraph and chapter is constructed with a purpose and reads beautifully. There’s real passion behind her story and it’s evident she has drawn on some intense personal experiences to create this level of raw energy in her writing.
The sentiment behind the whole story comes from a very real place, as such, ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES handles teenage mental health in a mature and powerful way. Neither romanticising or sweeping aside Finch and Violet’s personal struggles, this novel creates an honest and sensitive space to discuss depression and grief. A difficult one to get right, Niven really nails what it is that love can do, and more importantly, what love cannot do for those with depression.
There isn’t a thing about this novel that I didn’t love. ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES is believable, rich and raw and I was completely glued to it beginning to end. Finch in particular made this story for me with his vulnerability and easy charm. Simply perfect.