All the Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven

January 5, 2015 Book Reviews, Books 0

This review is based on an ARC provided as part of a giveaway package, but the book itself is officially released tomorrow!

Normally this is the space where a star rating would go. But… not for this book.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven | January 2015 | Knopf Books for Young Readers | Hardcover $17.99

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.

I actually finished this book before Christmas, but I’ve struggled with writing a review for it. In the end, I decided the most honest action would be to briefly explain why I’m not comfortable assigning a star rating, even just casually on Goodreads.

I finished All the Bright Places in one day. The characters read as real teens — and by that I don’t just mean that they act in a realistically teenager-y way, but but that they generally (though not always) come across as complicated people with actual personalities. The relationships that develop between the characters (and not just the romantic relationship between the primary characters but the friendships and animosities between the other characters, too) are similarly real-ish. The manifestations of grief / mental illness are raw and subtle and carefully handled and unapologetically real. There’s that word again: real….

So why no rating?

It was too real for me.

I won’t go into too much personal detail about why, but if this book came with “trigger warnings” they would look something like this….

Trigger warnings: bipolar disorder, depression, child abuse, suicide, car wrecks

No, I don’t advocate for trigger warnings on books. I think that’s what the jacket copy and online or print book reviews are for, to give you a good idea as to the content of the book. And yes, I read the summaries and had a pretty good idea of what I’d be reading. I guess I just didn’t expect that it would actually hurt so much to read.

So if you’re the same, if these topics are close to home, even if you can normally read about them in a sort of detached way, heed my warning.

And when I say that it hurt to read, I don’t mean in a good way, like the sort of book that you read with a box of tissues nearby so you can have a good cathartic cry after. This book made me angry.

Even now, a couple of weeks later, when I think of inevitable conclusion (or lack of one, or too much of one), I only want to rip my copy in half. I only want to shred into tiny pieces, like the characters in the book do with the words that hurt them.


Publication information: Niven, Jennifer. All the Bright Places. New York: Knopf, 2015. Print.
Source: Part of a “Season’s Readings” giveaway by author Lisa Schroeder.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

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