My younger sister read this book when it was first released and has been bugging me to give it a try ever since. I kept putting it off, imagining that, like I’ll Give You The Sun, it would be aimed a too young an age group. But from the first few pages of All The Bright Places I was hooked!
I liked how, from the very first sentence, I was thrown into the headspace of the characters because it meant I could get to know them straight away and instantly establish a relationship with them. It also meant that I very quickly learned that both Finch and Violet suffered from mental health issues, which somehow made them more likeable, as if I had to be on their side because other people might not have been so understanding or patient.
I find it interesting that, in spite of Finch’s own mental struggles, he is the one who actualy prevents Violet from taking her own life and it is from this moment that their relationship begins to blossom. To me it is bittersweet that in spite of Finch’s inability to want anything other than to die, he shows Violet how to enjoy life again after her sister’s death.
Niven undoubtedly succeeded in bringing both Finch and Violet to life, and I think the dual first person narrative technique really helped with this, especially given that the narrative revolves around emotional and mental struggle. It was also really interesting to see what effect someone with mental health issues would have on someone else suffering with a similar problem- something that is not often covered in fiction, especially teen fiction. The fact that, as is the prerogative of a teenage girl, Violet disregards her parents’ warnings about spending time with Finch and Finch deletes voicemails to prevent his mother from knowing what he doesn’t want her to know gives them an air of reality and shows that they are more than just their mental health problem, contrary to many assumptions about sufferers of depression, PTSD and so on.
Somehow, even though the book concludes in one of the worst eventualities, it didn’t actually leave me feeling sad because I felt as if Violet’s character had really progressed and learned to become more comfortable in herself and in the world. I felt as if the book confirmed by life belief that everything happens for a reason because, without having established such a strong relationship with Finch, who was the most straight- talking person in her life, and then having him play out his story as he did, Violet would not be as stable or rational as she seems at the end.
I would definitely recommend All The Bright Places, regardless of age, or gender or usual choice of genre, simply because it was brilliant. As soon as I began the book I couldn’t put it down because I was desperate to know what would happen to Violet and Finch. Niven clearly has a talent for bringing characters to life, and for dealing with the, very difficult to deal with, subject of mental health in a way that is suitable for teenagers. This book displays the author’s talent in a way that simply must be read.