This stunning contemporary novel of friendship and careful romance as well as serious themes of mental illness and suicide, has quickly become one of my favourite books of all time.
The story follows Violet Markey a popular girl at school who’s life crashes to a halt after the death of her sister as she is beginning to lose touch with reality – and Theodore Finch who seems obsessed with the idea of suicide as they begin to change each other’s perceptions of the world.
However don’t be deterred, this is not your typical mushy ‘boy meets girl’ romance, no it’s much more than that. The delicately played narrative of love and loss is heart-rendering and unique in style. I can’t help but compare this to ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, another tragic love story, but whilst TFIOS almost seems trashy in its commercialism and inevitability, ‘All the Bright Places’ does not. That’s right, this book makes ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ (the book that inspired the movie that made $300 million) look trashy.
The story is told in dual-perspective from both of the protagonists which allows the reader to feel very involved in the story and emotionally connected to a point where it can reduce you to tears and break your heart. That’s when you know it is powerful writing.
Violet and Finch are grouped together in a school project after they meet on the ledge of the school bell tower when Violet is about to jump. Together they travel around their state soon forgetting about their project and instead enjoying the company. But reality can’t be forgotten forever and with Finch’s struggle with mental issues and Violet trying to move on from the past, their relationship is fraught with highs and lows.
Without spoiling too much, I can tell you that our star-crossed lovers visit a ball of paint, a back-yard roller-coaster and a tiny mountain, all of which inspire laughter, love and a good dose of wanderlust.
Niven’s writing style in this book is not to be glossed over at all, the characters are shown in so much detail, through straight forward description as well as how they speak and act. There is some beautiful imagery and a number of amazing quotes, try “You are all the colours at once, at full brightness.” Every detail and plot point in this book is well thought-out and delivered with grace, even the website that Violet creates in the book exists in real life with a purpose to help give advice about style, life, pop culture and literature.
After reading the epilogue you can really tell why the writing in the novel is so good, Niven is writing from a personal, emotional place as well as trying to promote people to talk about mental illness and stop it being such a ‘taboo’, secretive thing.
All in all the book has, in my eyes, succeeded in all it set out to achieve and more. If you enjoyed book like ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ or ‘Before I die’, I would definitely recommend this book. Even I you’ve never even picked up a book from this genre I would strongly encourage you to read it. Even if it’s to learn more about mental illness or so you can say you read it before its made into a film.
Whoever you are, whatever your age, I implore to read this book.