I read All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven for the second time this week. The YA novel left a different kind of impact on me this time around. The story focuses on two main characters – Violet Markey and Theodore Finch; who help each other find hope and love.
Violet is deeply disturbed by her sister’s recent death and wants to get over with the graduation so she can leave her Indiana town. Finch is fascinated with the concept of death and is always thinking of some ways he might kill himself. Violet is on the ledge of the school bell tower, still reeling from the ache of her sister’s death, and maybe for a minute, she wonders if she should jump off. Finch is on the same ledge thinking along similar lines. It’s a bizarre first meeting for sure but in a way, they save each other’s lives. This is where their story begins.
Violet and Finch end up getting paired up for a project at school that sees them embark on a road trip across unusual places in Indiana. The first time I read this book years ago, I missed out on all the little clues about Finch’s mental health which this time I understood. His struggles are heartbreaking and relatable. He doesn’t understand himself sometimes; forgets about anyone else understanding him. His friendship with Violet I think is something he thinks might save him and Violet wants to save Finch but she doesn’t know how to save him.
The narration shifts between Violet and Finch which makes the characters much more real and relatable to readers. It helped me understand the characters and gave me an insight into them. They are young and they think their love can conquer all and they can save each other. Violet starts putting her past, her guilt, and her grief behind her and wants to move forward with Finch. In the meantime, Finch struggles to control his obsession with death and that scares Violet. Their characters signify contrasting themes in the novel. Violet wants to forget and move on; she wants to live and Finch is fascinated with death to a point where it does seem like he wants to die.
In the end, Violet and Finch’s love for each other is not enough to survive everything but they do save each other. Violet learns to live and hope again because of Finch no matter how it ends. Finch’s death is suicide but this time it does happen unknowingly. He doesn’t jump into the lake with the thought of killing himself but that’s what his actions lead to. Another thing that plays an important part in the story is to enjoy the present to its fullest because the thought of ‘what could be or what could have been’ takes a toll on a person.
All the Bright Places isn’t a typical love story in any way. It tackles the impact of death and mental illness on individuals and how people struggle with grief. The end is heartbreaking and knowing how it ends from start; didn’t stop my tears. The book is about love and hope but it raises awareness about mental health and grief in such a subtle yet impactful way. This book stays with you for a while because of the way the story and the characters touched your heart. It is a beautifully heartbreaking book.
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