|All the Bright Places
4 / 5
"Is today a good day to die?"
The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this compelling, exhilarating, and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
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.
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.
Maybe it was the lack of hype prior to my reading this book, but I enjoyed it far more than I did the two it is compared to above, The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park. Although it is rightly compared to the two, this book felt like it had so much more to give me. Perhaps it was just that I identified most with these characters, which is strange because one of the things that bothered me most about TFIOS was the unbelievable pretentiousness of the teenaged characters, and Violet and Finch can often be found quoting Woolf. But ATBP is more of a mix between Hazel/Augustus and Eleanor/Park, a good blend between the extremes of the two books in terms of where it explores knowledge and teenage lives. I am not even sure if I liked Finch all that much, but I did sympathize with him and how he often felt. And I think the author did a great job of presenting mental illness in him, and the uncertainty of mourning in Violet. I feel like I can't write much about this book without spoilers, so I will probably keep this review short. I just think it's definitely a great Young Adult read, particularly for those who are struggling with loss and figuring out their own identities. I say this a lot, I know, but I think this would have been a favorite when I was in high school - a book I could identify with, a relationship I could see developing between two very different kids.
I think one of my favorite things about this book was how the author chose to showcase Indiana by having Violet & Finch partner on an "explore our great state" project for school. This allows Niven to introduce the reader to all the nifty, unique, quirky places in IN, from the world's largest ball of paint to the infamous shoe trees. All the places she mentions (and sometimes even the people) are real, and I imagine this book receiving accolades something along the lines of Idaho's legislation on Napoleon Dynamite. It did a great job of introducing me to a state I might not otherwise know much of anything about. Pair that with the budding romance of two teenagers, and you've got yourself a very sweet and magical little book.
With a whole lot of tragedy - and beauty - thrown in.
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