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Is it true? Are more flowers sent, more mourners present and more speeches given for those kids who die in an accident or of an illness? Death, especially of a young person, is horrible, and don’t we need to believe that if they hadn’t been hit by that drunk driver or had cancer, they would be perfect today? What about those kids who suffer from mental illness? When they are recuperating after cutting themselves or a suicide attempt, do people visit? Do they receive get well soon balloons? Is the cause of their stay hushed up? Or do they just become That Weird Kid that everyone stays away from?
Violet says she doesn’t even remember thinking about whether she was going to try and kill herself, but there she was, up in the bell tower. And it wasn’t until after she stepped over the railing that she woke up and realized that she didn’t want to go through with it. Thankfully, Theodore Finch was there. Theodore Freak. He didn’t just happen to be there, no. He too was in the bell tower, standing in front of the railing, wondering if this was the day. Once he realizes that he’s not alone, he does all he can to help Violet off the ledge. He even lets the rumor start that she was up there helping him.
Not that it matters, since nothing really does since Violet’s older sister died in a car crash. Violet just crosses the days off of the calendar with a big black X, trying to move as far away from the accident as possible. She’s quit everything and barely leaves her room. But this chance encounter with Finch will change her, little by little, and help bring her back to the world of the living.
Finch, however, is a different story. He has weeks, sometimes months, where he can’t recall time passing. Black, dark times when he is unable to leave his bed. But he won’t burden his mother with this, because she’s been so sad ever since the divorce. So Finch runs interference in his own life, with occasional help from his older sister, and it seems to work. He’s just waiting for the right moment, anyway.
Then Finch falls in love with Violet Markey. But how long will he be able to stay awake? And will she still love him if he can’t?
Didja Like It?: The writing is superb; the characters are so, so very real: funny, heartbreaking, horrible, blind. You know, practically when you read the first paragraph, that this is going to be one of those stories that fills you with equal parts of love, sadness, rejoicing and helplessness. And, as exhilarating and frustrating and wonderful that this relationship becomes, there is a definite melancholy that you just can’t shake. You know.
It takes more than just a good storyline to propel a good book into an exceptional one. The fleshing-out of the surrounding story should be new, different, fresh. The secondary (and even tertiary) characters need to feel authentic and essential. Throughout time, themes have repeated; an extraordinary book makes you feel like this is the first time you’ve heard it. This novel fits all of these requirements.
Anything Else to Mention?: Yes, I’m a cryer. Movies, books, YouTube videos, junk mail, commercials, ads on buses…any of those mediums can cause me to pull out the travel Kleenex. So just because I cry, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. However, while this particular book was a 12-tissue tale for me, every salty drop contained pain and understanding. And while comparisons to John Green (who I love) seem to be de rigueur these days for anything real/mournful, I would just as soon see Ms. Niven given her own space to occupy in the YA universe (with writers in the not-so-distant future being compared to her). Because she has written this poignant jewel of a book that stands completely on its own, and because:
To Read or Not To Read: Why are you still sitting here? Oh I forgot. The book doesn’t come out until January. At least you can put it on order so Amazon will have it to you ASAP. Or enter to win a copy below!
If you are considering suicide, please, please talk to someone! Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven will be published January 6, 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Big thanks to NetGalley/the Publisher/the Author.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction Contemporary Romance
Ages: 14 and up
You Might Want to Know: In addition to the serious subject matter, this book contains profanity, violence and sexual situations.