Review Blog

Jan 30 2020

All the bright places by Jennifer Niven

cover image

Penguin Random House, 2020. ISBN: 9780241395967.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Two young teenagers meet on the narrow outside ledge of the school clock tower. Theodore Finch is known as Theodore Freak, the weird boy always doing something crazy. He is contemplating whether this day is the day that he will die. Violet Markey is one of the cool girls, but who now suddenly feels alone and guilty, having lost her sister in a car accident that Violet blames herself for. Both find themselves looking down on the school grounds far below.
Violet gets the credit for talking Finch down. Little do family and school friends know but it was actually more in the reverse: it was Finch who saved Violet's life. Thus begins a tenuous relationship as Violet gets drawn more and more into a friendship with a person who seems so charismatic, so dramatically in love with life, and so irrepressibly full of enthusiasm - nobody can read these pages without loving Finch. Only gradually the reader becomes aware of the violence, the apathy, and the neglect that have coloured his life, and which have left their deep scars. Finch however constantly strives to find the joy and beauty in life. It is not until the latter pages of the book that the reader, like Violet, comes to really understand his situation.
The two students collaborate on a school geography project that challenges them to explore the unique and celebratory places in their home state of Indiana. In doing so they draw closer together, and Violet gradually braves the demons that hold her back. She becomes 'Ultraviolet Remarkey-able' as Finch likes to call her.
Author Jennifer Niven has written a tender story about two teenagers struggling with thoughts of suicide, drawn together by a shared experience of loneliness, rejection, depression and guilt. It is a sensitive portrayal of grief and teenage love that is sad but ultimately uplifting in its resolution. I am sure it will be a very popular film when it comes to Netflix.
The end pages remind young readers that they are not alone, and there is help out there. They list support services in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Helen Eddy

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