All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven
This month, I read a book that was nothing like anything I’ve ever read before. I found this book thinking it was a typical, romance story, and after skimming the summary of it online, I thought “Okay, seems good enough for me!” I was wrong. This book did not deserve to be read by someone like me, but I knew it was meant for me. I finished All the Bright Places with a feeling of shock and a type of sadness that kind of made me feel happy (the weird emotions I am describing will all make sense after reading this book).
I was completely fooled by this novel, and I think that’s what the author wanted to have happen. Most people, including me, would not read a book specifically focused on loss or death, especially from mental illnesses or suicide. It’s as if the author knew what people would think if she labeled this as a depressing story on depressing teens- I probably wouldn’t have read this either. When I read the summary, I seriously thought this book was about two troubled teens falling in love. I should have known by the first chapter that there was going to be a lesson to the story.
This book talks about mental health and suicide in a way that doesn’t make it feel like it’s a book giving facts about mental illness. The story is focused on a real-life scenario of high school students who are faced with depression and a loss of a loved one, as if it is a thing that actually happens in real life (because it is). At the same time, it still talks about regular high school and relationships to make the reader understand that mental disorders can happen anywhere, as normal as life may seem. The main character, Theodore Finch, is a boy who everyone calls “Freak” or a “weirdo”. One day, he finds a girl on top of the school tower who almost falls to her death- Violet, the sister of a victim in a fatal car accident. Together, they explore both the dark and the light of their lives and the world, and it seems as if they’re a perfect pair. However, it soon comes to surface that Theodore suffers from depression and bipolar disorder.
This book is written so well. Every page is a different direction, and I had no idea where I was going. Every character, plot, idea, thought, is interconnected and intertwined with each other. Lines that appear in the way beginning of the story somehow end up in a major way towards the end, and you’re just left thinking: “I didn’t think it would end up like that.” And that’s the thing- no one really knows when someone is suffering, and when something does happen, no one understands why. I’m so happy that I got to experience a story like this, and I can definitely tell that others who read this feel the same way. The stigma around psychological disorders, depression, and even bullying should not be a stigma, and I think that books like these really help to bring awareness towards those kind of topics.