ARC Book Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

ARC Book Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer NivenAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
Published on January 7th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
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3 Stars

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park, All the Bright Places is a compelling 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.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


All the Bright Places is the story of the relationship between a teen boy suffering from Bipolar II disorder and suicidal tendencies and a girl using her sister’s death as an excuse to shut herself away from the world. It’s being compared to The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and contains many of the same elements: a doomed manic pixie dream boy, a quiet girl pulled out of her comfort zone and set on a path to heal, and pretentiousness. Oh, the pretentiousness.


This book is set in Indiana and although I don’t know much about Indiana, I felt absorbed in the reality of the location as the seasons changed and the two main characters visited a ton of different interesting landmarks due to being paired up on a geography project.


The novel is told from duel points of view, our MPDB Theodore Finch, and the reclusive Violet Markey.

Finch is pretty much a pretentious asshole for most of the book – I mean, he’s not really an asshole to Violet, which is nice, but he’s a difficult kid who has been outcast by the rest of the school by an arch-enemy for one moment of vulnerability. Finch suffers from bipolar 2 disorder, and it actually took me quite a long time to catch on to this, because bipolar 1 is the more commonly depicted in narratives. The difference being bipolar 1 has the manic phase (like Adrian in Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines series) and bipolar 2 does not, so the character can just come off as being a bit of an asshole, which Finch did. This is the culmination of his inflated grandiosity, his risk-taking activities, his obsession with goal-oriented activities (being the geography project), and his occasion losing touch with reality, which at first I thought Finch had been in a coma but more realistically he was suffering from a particularly bad bout of depression. He also didn’t seem suicidal to me at all. He was taking risks but he wanted to live.

Violet, in contrast, was a quiet, shy, bookworm-type girl that Finch obsessed over from their first meeting. Violet is recovering from her sister’s untimely death in the car accident she survived, and she’s not making very much progress until finch yanks her out of her comfort zone by being persuasive and insistent, but at least he’s not moody and controlling. Violet not suicidal, though she does need to escape her current life, so she distracts herself with online magazines and college applications to far-off places where it never snows. She doesn’t have as much personality as Finch, though, because she’s his foil. She’s simply quiet, pretty, and willing to do whatever Finch wants.


Finch and Violet’s relationship is a slow-burning one where they continuously deny their feelings for one another – mostly because Violet’s still got a hanger-on in the shape of an ex-boyfriend who can’t let go, and quite frankly, Finch is a self-confessed ‘weirdo’. When they finally did get it together, I was pretty pleased with the result, because Violet needed someone like Finch to help her heal. I was surprised to find the relationship moved on pretty quickly to a sexual one, but then again I have my own ideas about sex in YA books. I was disappointed that Finch pulled away when Violet became more embroiled in his life and his issues, so it was with a mix of sadness and hope I approached the climax of the book, although it wasn’t emotionally blackmailing. I also found myself in denial, but to talk more about that would be to spoil the book.


It’s hard to talk about what happens without spoiling it, but I’m pretty certain people who liked The Fault in Our Stars will enjoy this book as well because of the similarities in character, romance, and plot. It’s a sweet story about two broken teens finding solace through their new friendship with each other and the relationship’s eventual decline due to the very issues that brought them together. I might re-read it one day, but for now I’m still nursing my wounded heart.


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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