“I learned that there is good in this world, if you look hard enough for it. I learned that not everyone is disappointing…and that a 1,257 foot bump in the ground can feel higher than a bell tower if you’re standing next to the right person” – All The Bright Places, Jennifer Niven
I’m going to be honest – this book was a tough one. It probably didn’t help that the same week I read this I also finished season 1 of Thirteen Reasons Why on Netflix AND both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. 😦 Talk about a heavy heart.
As you may have gathered, All The Bright Places is a YA book very similar to the controversial novel and series Thirteen Reasons Why involving teen suicide, depression, and mental illness. This book pulled at my heart strings. Jennifer Niven shares her story and her personal journey with mental illness and suicide in the Author’s Note at the conclusion of the book and it was very touching. This book is well-researched and written with an open mind and a great deal of care. I suggest you read it the same.
Enough of the chatter…
[Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional nor am I trained to give professional advice. This review contains opinions and thoughts on mental illness that are my own and you are not required to agree with them]
Finch (short for Theodore Finch) and Violet find each other both standing on the ledge of the Bell Tower at their school. While they don’t admit it at first, they were both on that ledge with full intentions of jumping off. What they don’t realize is being on that ledge at that very moment is what saved their lives. After finding each other at the Bell Tower, Finch and Violet’s relationship begins to develop as acquaintances, to close friends, to lovers. While their relationship progresses, we are by their side and rooting for them every step of the way.
Finch is a troubled teenager that lacks structure, love and support at home. His violent and abusive father left the family for a new wife and child and his mother has never been one to be involved in his life or care about his well-being. Finch is the black sheep, the kid who doesn’t quite fit in, the “freak” as his high school class calls him. Violet is a troubled teenager who has all of the structure, love and support at home. She is grieving the loss of her sister who died in a tragic car accident less than a year prior; Violet was in the passenger seat and was the one who told her sister to take the route she died on. She is surrounded by many friends, is a talented writer, and dates one of the most popular boys in school.
These unlikely individuals somehow mesh together to create a quirky, loving, and understanding bond with one another. They quite literally talk each other off the ledge and prove time and time again that life IS worth fighting for; there are ways to cope with depression and mental illness. Unfortunately, not everyone can be saved.
This book isn’t a fairytale with a happy ending. This is a book that will weigh heavy on your heart for days and make you rethink how you look at things such as mental illness, support systems, kindness, the words you speak to others, the relationship you have with yourself and others in your life. Falling right alongside Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and Thirteen Reasons Why, there is one common denominator in all four; the negative stigma of mental illness and how easily one can hide their pain and suffering.
High school and your teenage years are already hard enough to get through. Adding an undiagnosed/misdiagnosed mental illness on top of that or a tragic death in the family can make it a million times worse. Kids are mean; people are mean. Words hurt and they are never thought of before they are spoken. What we say can have an extreme impact on others. What we don’t say can be even worse.
I learned a lot of important and useful lessons from All The Bright Places and it breaks my heart knowing there are children and adults silently suffering. Your strong, likeable, funny friend who appears to have it all may be struggling. The shy and timid friend who doesn’t fit in may be struggling. Your coworker whom you don’t know that well may be struggling. Check in on your strong friend. Give a smile or a few words of encouragement to those who may not fit in to society’s standards. Get to know your coworkers on a personal level and learn their story. We all have a story; some are more open with theirs than others and some are afraid to speak out.
I can’t say enough about how IMPORTANT this book and this story and these lessons are. For you, for me, for our sanity and for human kind. Whether you’re a teenager, a parent, a friend – you need to read this. Whether you have 100 friends or 1 friend – you need to read this. Whether you think mental illness is a disease or not – YOU NEED TO READ THIS. Read it. Let it sit with you. Reflect on your own life and your loved ones. Don’t make this yet another book you just toss on your bookshelf after you read it. Pass it on – spread its message. Be a bright place in someone’s dark world.
**This is a soon-to-be motion picture starring Elle Fanning as Violet – check out the article here**