All the Bright Places, an emotional read for all book lovers

Kristyn DeMaria, Staff Writer

The young adult novel All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven follows high school seniors Violet Markey and Theodore Finch as both teens struggle with grief and manic depression. Their unexpected meeting at the top of the school’s bell tower leads to a partnership in a class project that requires them to wander the sights of Indiana. After the passing of Violet’s sister, impulsive, spontaneous and mysterious Finch becomes Violet’s guiding star to a world of happiness she long forgot about. As Violet becomes closer to Finch, she discovers a side of him that nobody else has seen before. A love story full of obstacles, All the Bright Places paints a picture where pain and healing can happen all at once.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It was recommended to me through friends and teachers, and I’m definitely not disappointed in my choice to read it. Finch’s personality is intoxicating in the way that he’s adventurous, impulsive, creative, and mysterious. You are always finding out more about Finch; it’s a string you follow that has no end to it. That’s the thing about Finch, too, is that he creates these wild chases that are confusing yet exhilarating. Nobody at school really knows much about him, other than the rumors and the name “freak” that follows him around. Unlike Violet, who used to be this popular party girl before the accident. She was well known for her excellence in writing and had a large friend group. I’m always a sucker for books where two people whose lives are so seemingly different on the surface meet, because they always prove that despite the circumstances, we all are more similar than we seem.

Typically when I read books, I resonate with a female character. So, as much as I expected to empathize with Violet, I found myself strangely connected to Finch. I find a lot of similarities in our personalities and the way we process emotion. Finch is a very creative character, and he handles his emotions exactly like that; creatively. In the book, he would write good words and bad words on sticky notes. “Good” meant anything with a silver lining or outright positivity, and “Bad” was anything invasive, uncomfortable, or irritating. He’d tear up the bad notes and hang the good ones on his wall. Sometimes, he’d build a fort for himself in his closet as a sort of safe space. Some things he’d do simply without thinking: go for night runs, rearrange and repaint his entire room in a few nights, and disappear off-the-grid for as long as he wanted. It’s implied that these are symptoms of mania caused by Bipolar Disorder. As somebody with Bipolar 1, reading Finch’s side of the story reminded me of my manic runs and late night room makeovers. Finch made me remember how amazing and devastating mania feels, and how I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. It’s a constant up and down roller coaster, and Niven writes his character to perfectly portray this.

All the Bright Places is written in such detail that its movie portrayal fails to include. The characters process more in thought than actual dialogue. If you’ve been meaning to watch the movie adaptation, while it’s relatively good, you will miss out on some major details that tie the storyline together. I recommend reading the book first. Trust me, I’m usually somebody who prefers the movies over the books, but this particular story is portrayed deeper in the novel. I was actually somewhat disappointed in Netflix’s film version, for lack of detail and important characters. In the film, Finch’s mom and little sister Decca don’t even exist, and they played pretty important roles in the book. Finch’s relationship with both characters had a large reflection on his own values. To see them not be included in the film irritated me. In order to truly see the story as Jennifer Niven intended it to be seen, you need to read the novel.

As someone who prefers the movie, I would rate the text at 9.5 out of 10 on a number scale. The remaining .5 is excluded because there were some characters that I didn’t like or agree with their choices, but I respect their need to make these choices for the storyline. I was teary-eyed through the end of the book, which indicates to me that the author understands how to express the tough emotions that everybody is afraid to talk about. If you’re a good reader, All the Bright Places will be a short read for you. Regardless of reading skills, all readers will find that this book is a rewarding read.