All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Finch and Violet go to the same high school but don’t move in the same social circles. So when they both find themselves at the top of the school’s bell tower one day, it’s a chance for that to change. Finch is a boy who flirts constantly with death, thinking about different ways to kill himself and researching suicide statistics. He’s known as “Theodore Freak” by his classmates and has a couple of close friends but that’s it. Violet moves among the popular kids at school, but lost her older sister in a car accident the year before, something she’s having problems coping with. The two of them start working on a school project together since Finch tricks Violet into agreeing. For the project, they travel the state of Indiana finding unique places to visit and leaving small things behind. As they travel, the two become closer and more honest with one another about what they are going through. Violet begins to come out of her grief and live more, but something different is happening to Finch.
Niven creates a movie-like novel here with scenes that comes to life complete with cinematography in your mind. There are iconic moments throughout the book, thanks to the plot of them moving from one unique spot to another. Moments that stand out as important and vital even as they are happening, moments that disguise but also highlight what is happening to the two main characters. There is a moment in the middle of the book where things switch and change starts to happen for both characters, but in opposite directions. There is a sense of loss at that moment, of being unable to save someone that echoes suicide right then and there. It is beautifully done.
The two main characters are brilliantly written as well. The sorrowful Violet who can’t see her way towards trying at school or connecting with others at all and who finds her light in Finch that moves her forward. The clever and sarcastic Finch who steeps himself in dark thoughts but flares alive, sleepless and awake, desperate never to fall into the trap of sleeping for days or months again. He is a deep character, fighting being bipolar on his own.
Niven writes with a simple beauty that will appeal to teens, especially as they explore these complicated subjects. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from ARC received from Knopf.