Book Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Friday 8 January 2016

All the Bright Places
Jennifer Niven
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance, Young adult
Published: January 8th 2015
Pages: 388
Rating: 2.5 stars

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.

Going into this and hearing the comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars, I was hoping that I'd like the characters and that they wouldn't be pretentious, overly-obnoxious teens that don't act like any teen ever. In the first few pages, I was happily rewarded with decent characters. Or at least, what I thought were decent characters. 

Finch soon revealed himself to be annoying, pretentious, obnoxious, and one-sided in that he was a non-mentally ill person's idea of what mental illness looks like. It was standard, which is fine as people do suffer like that and everyone is different, but it wasn't good. As someone deeply interested in psychology (and battling my own mental demons) I was sat there thinking 'what about x, y, and z?' These things are not black and white, or a checklist of symptoms, and I was hoping this would portray a wider range of issues, in a way unique to young adult fiction.

I wasn't a fan of all the quotes and pieces of trivia thrown into Finch's chapters. I get that it was part of his character, but it's not something I get on with when reading. It felt out of place, and more like Finch was trying to justify his actions and thoughts rather than actually feeling that way or using it as a way to cope. I don't know. I just wasn't a fan.

Niven's writing, however, was very good. It was easy to read and I got through it at a good pace. I liked the variety she included, with online conversations between Finch and Violet, flashbacks, and the chapter headings. 

In the end, I didn't dislike this. It was okay. Not quite what I wanted but just what I expected. It wasn't a powerful read, but it was definitely a thoughtful one.


  1. I really loved this book. I really loved Finch and Violet's relationship, and how the book incorporated humour while also keeping the heavy subject. Sorry it didn't work out for you :(

    1. I really wanted to love it more than I did :( I can appreciaet humour being woven into heavy subjects, but I prefer a black humour which can be difficult - not to mention insensitive and offensive - if done in the wrong way or by someone who doesn't experience the issue.

  2. This book was on a home-run to five stars for me until the end, when it was clear I wasn't getting the happy ending I was so looking forward to! I am such a sucker for a happy ending (must be all the Disney I watched as a kid...), so I was really disappointed! :(

    1. I'm actually glad the ending was all sunshine and rainbows. As is (unfortunately) the case with a lot of mental illness struggles the ending isn't always a pleasant one. If you get an ending from it at all. I felt that it reflected reality very well in that sense.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.


    3. K Sawyer9 January 2016 at 15:48
      That's very true! I struggled with this a lot, but thought that actually it could have served as a beacon of hope if it had had a happy ending! Depends who your target audience is, I raise awareness it was perfect, but as a source of comfort, it could have been better!
      I don't think I am explaining this very well haha...I wrote a lot more just after I had read it on my blog, if you're interested! :)

      Kristi x

    4. I see where you're coming from, but personally I think that endings that aren't happy can also serve as comfort. For some - especially those in the depths of relapse or coming to terms with a diagnosis - it can be reassuring to read something so stark and brutal. Knowing that, while it's painful and sad, it's a normal part of life to not be able to cope with things, and just because they can't cope with things others can doesn't make them less of person.

      I think the ending was thought provoking and eye opening to people who aren't as aware of mental illness. It stands as a reminder that it is something to be taken seriously. But I'm rambling now so I'll stop :)

    5. You are very right - I like your perspective! Now I don't hate the ending as much :) I guess it's the same as how I feel about sad songs...sometimes when you're down, you need people to acknowledge how crap you're feeling before anyone attempts to cheer you up!

    6. Yes, exactly! I'm all for happy endings, but they have a time and a place. For me, this wasn't it, and I commend Niven for creating something realistic and bittersweet.

  3. My thoughts exactly Charlotte. I thought this was a well-written read, but it didn't blow me away the way I wanted it to. :/ It's a shame, because I can definitely see understand why so many other readers love it so much. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

    ~ Zoe @ Stories on Stage

    1. I think it had so much potential to be something absolutely fantastic as well. Perhaps if it had been reworked and focused less on trying to be a cute and quirky romance with a devastating ending and more on being a true, gritty account it would have been more my cup of tea.


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