All the Bright Places: Review

January 21, 2015 2.5 star books, 2015, contemporary, Layla 37 ★★½

All the Bright Places: ReviewAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Published by Random House on January 6, 2015
Genres: contemporary
Pages: 384 pages
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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two-half-stars
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

I’m a black sheep with this one, you guys. (Baa.) But I was really underwhelmed by All The Bright Places.

I suspect I will be in the minority here, so, you know, your mileage may (and probably will) vary. But this book features a number of things I don’t care for: most prominently, I don’t tend to like books where one character changes another character’s life (by being irrepressibly quirky, or by teaching them to see the boring old world around them with new eyes, or by being impossibly good) View Spoiler », leaving main character changed for good and with a renewed sense of hope and potential. You know – it’s where characters aren’t important in-and-of themselves but are important for the transformative effect they exert on other people’s lives. (Think of the manic pixie dream girl, something along these lines.) And … All the Bright Places was a bit like this for me.

I will try not to be super spoilery, but, you know, proceed with caution. Additionally, if you’re triggered by reading about suicidal ideation, you might want to skip this review as well as this book.

All the Bright Places opens with our heroine, Violet, on the rooftop of the school, contemplating suicide. Her classmate Finch, who is up there for much the same purpose, talks her out of it. In the aftermath, Finch frames the entire event so the rest of the student body thinks Violet saved his life rather than vice versa; Violet has a reputation to uphold, whereas Finch (due to an undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder, which spoiler alert, remains untreated for the entirety of the book) is estranged from his classmates, who call him “Theodore Freak” and do awful things like write articles in the school gossip rag where they speculate that he’s Most Likely To Commit Suicide and such. So Finch figures he’s less to lose and protects Violet, thus initiating a relationship that covers the rest of the book.

Violet smiles at Finch and he’s smitten; he pursues her aggressively and teams up with her for a class project where they have to check out a few local wonders. They discover new things about an ordinary place they’d taken for granted and fall in love. Finch helps Violet to begin to move past her sister’s death – the event that had her up on the rooftop of the school; she’s able to do things she hadn’t been able to do in the last year (complete school assignments, write creatively, ride in cars, etc). But while Violet’s achieving some degree of closure, Finch isn’t getting help.

There were a few things that really bothered me about their relationship – and the romance is pretty central to the novel, so if you aren’t on-board with that, it’s difficult to enjoy the book. Firstly, Finch pursues Violet too aggressively for me (and, as he tells her, on the basis of a smile). She smiles at him; he’s hooked. He creates a Facebook page just to talk to her. (And oh man, do not even get me started on the way they use Virginia Woolf here.) He coerces her into being his teammate on a group project (he raises his hand and says “I choose Violet Markey” in front of everyone; Violet is busy trying not to sink into the floor). She later says, “You ambushed me in front of everyone,” and he’s like, “Duh, you wouldn’t have worked with me otherwise.” And like, that’s precisely the point. Her wants and needs should be important!

He makes her break her the only ground rule she establishes for their group project. She’s scared of cars because she was in the car accident that killed her sister. Second or third place they choose to check out? He goads her into getting into the car. (He says, “You need shoving, not pushing.”) And like, okay. In the end, it is healthier than not for Violet to adjust to riding in cars again. But he shoves her in ways I’m uncomfortable with. (And to be clear, she should absolutely NOT want to be in a car with him; a few chapters before he pressures her into getting into the car, he’s driving recklessly.)

Finch isn’t a bad guy. He’s very much struggling with his own issues in the book. And I don’t expect romances to be perfect. But I don’t want to idealize relationships in which one person wants to fix another, and where boundaries aren’t respected, and I feel like the book wants me to be 100% into Violet + Finch in love. (Other minor pet peeves, and I feel like his happens all the time – teen boys giving teen girls nicknames that show how they’ve been reshaped / rebranded by love. I *hate* this – a name is such a fundamental marker of identity – and it’s pervasive. Ultraviolet Remarkabley, ick. Also, Finch talks about how he likes Violet’s shapely figure – she doesn’t look like a boy, like soooo many other girls at school. JERK. You can talk about how you like something without putting other things down, okay?) So that’s one thing.

My second, biggest problem with the book is the way in which Finch’s own mental health is treated. It’s pretty clear from the beginning of the book – and through Finch’s narration – that he’s struggling with undiagnosed, untreated bipolar disorder. And, bah, the book is just CHOCK-FULL of people who fail Finch. His family and friends treats his frequent disappearances and depressive episodes as normal. His mother doesn’t understand mental illness. His father is physically abusive. The one teacher who recognizes that Finch has bipolar disorder … tells him that and then watches him get expelled from school without doing anything, presumably. I don’t have a problem with any of this, per se – there’s a lot of stigma around mental health and people don’t always understand and sometimes everyone is the worst. But, for me, the book failed Finch as well.

View Spoiler »

If you want another review that thinks critically about the portrayal of Finch’s mental illness in All The Bright Places, check out the excellent blog, Disability in Kid Lit. Alex’s review is great.

If you want another book about teen suicide that treats the topic in an altogether different (and IMO, much, much better) way, check out Jasmine Warga’s My Heart and Other Black Holes. SPOILER ALERT, our very own Kim will be reviewing it here tomorrow. And Wendy’s reaction to the first few chapters of All the Bright Places can be found here.

So. Did you read All the Bright Places? What’d you think? I’m ok with being a lone black sheep (baa) and would still love to hear how other people read this one.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

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37 Responses to “All the Bright Places: Review”

  1. Tara Siddoway

    I came a across a link to this review from Goodreads as I just posted my review on this book, and I feel like I had similar thoughts as you did, so thank you for putting into a more eloquent way what I felt! This book made me feel uncomfortable throughout the whole setting, but I kept reading on in hopes that maybe this book could actually take a bigger risk and show that THERE CAN BE HELP FOR THOSE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS. Finch didn’t have to be doomed to make this story tick. Someone could have reached out and helped him. His life should have been a better symbol of showing how EVERY life matters, no matter how messed up you feel. I don’t feel like it gave off a good message to teens about getting help from people who are professional/are important in your life. The adults could have been more proactive in this novel. Thanks again for your review.

  2. Abbie

    Great review. I’m glad I’m not the only one who found the novel quite problematic. Honestly, I wish I hadn’t read it. Finch is an interesting character and so is Violet and the story had a nice undertone and was beautifully written… but I can’t help thinking it glorifies suicide, as if it adds meaning to a person’s life. I think the reason why ATBP upset me so much is that I’m in a similar situation and thus it hit much too close to home. Maybe this could have been a good novel if they had focussed on the fact that everyone, including Violet, failed Finch.

  3. sarah

    I’m still trying to figure out if Violet killed herself or not? the ending left it open ended really in my mind. There were things that worked and things that didn’t I really wish Finch had people to legit care for him and try to help him in a more serious manner.

  4. Suzanne

    I finished this book during a bout of insomnia and everything you said in your spoiler just encapsulated exactly what I thought of it. I was in tears by the end of this book, because it made me feel so hopeless. Finch’s bipolar/depression works differently depending on what it needs to be for Violet’s story to progress. I found it kind of weird for it to be compared to TFioS just because it involves another form of illness – for one, I didn’t really find the writing similar at all. Green’s is better (I thought it had more light and shade than this), though Niven’s definitely isn’t without merit. However, it also plays into the same thing that you were saying in your spoiler – Finch could have been helped. It’s not the same as having terminal cancer, as there is potential for Finch to recover. If everyone hadn’t failed him. I thought TFioS was a much more emotionally honest book, even if parts of it are terribly unrealistic. This was just a mess, and honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone struggling with these issues at all. It definitely made me feel worse rather than better.
    Suzanne recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday – Freebie time!

    • Layla

      Eeeeeeeks. Sorry that this is what you were reading during a bout of insomnia. (I can definitely see how it would make you feel worse rather than better – I had a hard time with it as well.) Yeah, the hopelessness of Finch’s mental health issues is what bothered me most about the novel. It’s in part that people are awful to him *about* his struggles w/ mental illness – which I know is not infrequent, unforch – but more problematically, I feel like the book has a really uncomfortable perspective on Finch’s mental illness (he’s almost doomed from the outset, and actual treatment options are never really considered for either him or Violet. Going on a bunch of exploratory missions to local wonders is not a replacement for, you know, therapy or medication – not that these are perfect, but they’re not actually considered).

      And yeah, agreed, I don’t think the comparisons w/ TFioS is all that warranted (it’s not the same as having terminal cancer and as another commenter wrote, it does make Finch’s suicide seem inevitable). Anyway. Same here. I would also not recommend it to anyone struggling with these issues. Nope nope nope.
      Layla recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  5. Lia

    Thanks for the review, Layla! You saved me from a book I’d find infuriating. I know that Niven wrote this to mirror reality;that many people with depression see their only options to be ending their own life or losing their personality to medication. But the fact that Finch’s view on medication isn’t proven incorrect would bother me. I mean, couldn’t she have one character to stand testament that therapists and psychiatrists aren’t just evil wizards seeking to send you on a one-way-trip to lalla land?

    • Layla

      Yeah, bingo. That’s pretty much how I feel about this. Finch’s perspective – that it’s either death or becoming an overly-medicated zombie – never seems to actually be challenged within the world of the novel. And like, his one experience with therapy is pretty unsuccessful (and seems to be more about showing the reader that the nasty popular girl also experiences depression, rather than actually moving Finch towards anything).

      I mean, couldn’t she have one character to stand testament that therapists and psychiatrists aren’t just evil wizards seeking to send you on a one-way-trip to lalla land?

      And precisely. Violet never goes to therapy or sees anyone, either. Her healing is accomplished (IMO) by like … knowing Finch and having her life changed by him. Which is not satisfactory to me either.
      Layla recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  6. Emma @ Miss Print

    Yes! Yes! I couldn’t agree with this review more. I read and reviewed All the Bright Places earlier this month and I am still shocked at how livid it made me. As you mentioned it was so frustrating to see Finch repeatedly not getting help. I also hated that Finch is framed as being too special to truly be part of this world. I can understand what Niven was going for, but it was handled so very poorly that it’s impossible to appreciate any of the other elements that are done well (Niven’s writing was great for instance).

    I also could not stand the way Niven, in Violet’s voice, tossed around the word slut to equate with Violet’s sexuality. It was infuriating!
    Emma @ Miss Print recently posted…A Thousand Pieces of You: A Review

    • Layla

      No, totally, I agree with you 100%. Both insofar as Finch doesn’t get help but also help is presented as like … not even a real solution for him (maybe anyone? certainly not Violet, which is also super troubling). And yes, Finch’s life and seemingly inevitable death are both romanticized in a way that made me really, really uncomfortable, particularly in a book that’s marketed towards teens? I know the author was writing this as someone who’s survived a close friend’s suicide, so I know that this might work as a thing for some people, but maaaaaannn, it did not work for me.

      And yes, I think Niven is a good writer – though the flippant style here really bothered me with regards to the subject matter. (Not that you can’t be darkly funny about things, but like … it seemed to almost dismiss or at least, not engage seriously with Finch’s mental illness.)
      Layla recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  7. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I’m feeling really bad for poor Finch, right now. It’s terrible how kids slip through the cracks and how they’re failed by people who should be helping them and it happens all too often, despite best efforts. As a journalism teacher, I’d like to add that, unless that school gossip rag is self-published and distributed off campus, that school is liable for anything that’s printed. I can’t imagine any school/journalism teacher being as irresponsible as to allow something like that, that’s openly bullying a kid (though there are probably people out there like that).
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Review: Burned by Karen Marie Moning

    • Layla

      AHHHH I KNOW. So, as far as I can tell, I don’t think it’s official (though it may be!), but the faculty definitely knows about it – I think Finch’s guidance counselor calls him in to talk about it, but there seem to be ZERO repercussions for the folks who wrote that. And augh, terrible. The school certainly knows about it, and that particular teacher realizes that Finch is bipolar, but no one does anything. And he goes missing and NO ONE DOES ANYTHING. It kills me. Poor Finch indeed.
      Layla recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  8. J. Oh

    Really appreciated this review. This is not the kind of book I’d normally go for, but I thought I might anyway, given all the hype. But the problems you highlighted are real ones that I don’t think I could deal with. I’ll try a few chapters, maybe, but I suspect that I might agree with you.

    • Layla

      Yeah, do give it a try if you’re at all curious. Enough people love it – and have been super moved by it – that I feel reluctant to discourage anyone from reading it, unless anything in my review makes you feel like OH GOD NO I COULD NEVER READ THAT. So try a few chapters and see what you think, & let me know! The hype was a large part of the reason I picked the book up – I hadn’t seen a single negative review for it, anywhere.
      Layla recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  9. Hilary

    Great in-depth review. I haven’t read this yet (I probably will, anyway just so I can see for myself) but I can already see why the romance is going to be problematic for me. When you say that you want characters who don’t change the main character’s life for the sake of changing it, are you saying that those types of characters have no purpose besides as a sort of ‘side-kick’ to trigger some sort of reaction/change in the main character? Sorry, that was a bit convoluted.
    Hilary recently posted…Beautiful People: Author Edition

    • Layla

      For sure. You should absolutely read this for yourself if you’re at all curious. I think most people really loved this, so there’s a good-ish chance that you might, too? Anyway, so many people love this one, that I’d be reluctant to dissuade any one from picking up something they might reaaallly like.

      Yeah, that’s kind of what I’m saying. I don’t want characters whose lives don’t seem to matter in and of themselves – like their main purpose in the narrative is to change someone else’s life. (It doesn’t mean that they aren’t well written or likable or fleshed out as characters, just that their role in the story is to transform someone else. A good example of this is any lady in any Nicholas Sparks novel, ever.) And I really felt this to be present – in complicated ways – in ATBP.
      Layla recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  10. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    I purposefully haven’t read this book, but I appreciate your very thoughtful review and think I’d probably have similar thoughts. I keep seeing it compared to The Fault in Our Stars and though I get that in a basic sense, I’m struggling with the comparison of a book featuring kids with terminal cancer with one featuring suicide. Even if this is not the intent, it makes me feel like they’re saying the outcomes are inevitable in the same way, and that scares me. Also, from reviews, Finch’s undiagnosed bi-polar disorder, and the fact that he’s able to see his abusive father and no one helps, is very upsetting to me. Even if things like that happen in real life. And even from your review, the ending is rubbing me the wrong way. I know my reaction to this subject and the treatment of it has to do with my own experiences, and I can appreciate that this might work for others differently. There are so many suicide books coming out in the next few months, and I’ve just had to avoid them – except I did read I Was Here, which I didn’t care for. But I digress. In any case, thank you for this review!
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…Dual Review: The Eighth Guardian and Blackout by Meredith McCardle

    • Layla

      That’s a really good point. I do think that the way the narrative works does actually reinforce what you’re worried about to some extent (this is to say, it does seem in the book to me like Finch’s suicide is framed as something that is inevitable and already a foregone conclusion, which made me uncomfortable). I haven’t read TFIOS (I don’t tend to snatch up books about teens dying) so I can’t speak to why this comparison is being made; my guess would be quirkiness and like … some sort of message about learning to live life to the fullest and live in the moment, but in ATBP, this is accomplished in really weird (to me) ways.

      And yessss, so upsetting, it is present, ongoing abuse, and I know that might be true to life, but augh. And also his father has a new child? And blah, there’s like no resolution about what’s going to happen to that kid or to his other siblings, who are apparently still seeing their dad for weekly dinners, God knows why.

      From what you’ve said here, I don’t think this is going to be something you’d like. So it’s safe to pass.

      Thanks for your comment!
      Layla recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  11. Pili

    This book made me really emotional, and and I understand very well how it didn’t work for you guys, but I couldn’t help but like it myself. Theodore refused to acknowledge his own issues so it was not surprising for me that he pushed Violet in ways that were not okay, seems like he simply saw things differently.
    The whole family and friends ignoring the fact that he had bipolar disorder or any other kind of mental health issue was very upsetting, but unfortunately not unrealistic. It’s very easy to ignore heath issues that are not “tangible” and simply label those people as “freaks” and I think the book does a very good job at making people see that.

    Fantastic review, Layla, it’s great to see a different point of view on a book when it’s explained and reasoned as well as you guys do!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #78!!

    • Layla

      I’m really glad you liked the book – I know it made lots of people feel all the feelings (which I love) and so I’m still a little bummed that my experience wasn’t the same.

      Yeah, I agree with you – I do think that this is why Theodore pushes Violet (because he’s dealing with his own stuff, and thus it maybe makes sense that he’s not in a place where he is able to respect her boundaries), I just wanted the novel to be more clear that this wasn’t ok for him to do. And Violet does call him out on it a bit, so there’s that.

      I know. That’s one of the things that makes me saddest about this book. I really wanted there to be other options for him.
      Layla recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  12. Carina Olsen

    Amazing review Layla. <3 I'm so glad you had issues with this book, lol, because now I know why I won't read it :D I'm so glad I never ordered it. I like the cover, and so many have loved this book. But then I read your spoiler. I DO NOT APPROVE. It seems so stupid and silly and I don't want to read this book, lol. Thank you for sharing your thoughts sweetie. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

    • Layla

      The cover art is really nice and lots of other readers do love this book! So if any part of you wants to give it a try, do it. But if the spoiler has decided you against it, I wouldn’t blame you. That really, really made the book not work for me on a number of different levels. I had so many issues with it, and while I know that most of those come from a personal place, it just made the book an uncomfortable reading experience for me. (It doesn’t mean that anyone else can’t love it or get something great from it, though! Just that I couldn’t.)

      <3!
      Layla recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

      • Carina Olsen

        Ack, I know. I have seen so many people love this book. But you made me think that it will not be for me, hih :) And I don’t read this genre much either, have issues with it :p So I won’t try it, I don’t think, hih :) Thank you for sharing your honest review sweetie. <3

        ALSO! I really do think you should give All the Rage a try. <3 But yeah. It is so heartbreaking :( Right before reading All the Rage, I re-read This is Not a Test by Courtney. <3 Which is PERFECT. Some zombies. But mostly really amazing characters. Sigh. And an short story sequel just came out too, Please Remain Calm, which I loved to pieces :) I think you would love those books. READ THEM :D I haven't read anything else by Courtney yet, but I own her three other books, and I'm reading them sometime this year. <3
        Carina Olsen recently posted…In My Mailbox #169

        • Layla

          Hmm, okay. I will try to keep an open mind though, and maybe try to get to them this year. It’s a long TBR list. I do like zombies and also really amazing characters, maybe I’ll start with those and leave All the Rage for last. I’m not in a space for that subject matter right now, but I would really like to read her since you speak so highly of her.
          Layla recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  13. Alexa S.

    It’s interesting to see another perspective on All the Bright Places, particularly after seeing so much praise for it from various people. Reading your review, I find that there are aspects to this book that might potentially wind up not working for me – though there are still some parts that will. I’m torn on whether or not to read this one, so I guess it’ll be a matter of if I remember to snag a copy to borrow.
    Alexa S. recently posted…We Can Work It Out – Elizabeth Eulberg

    • Layla

      I think it’s worth picking up, if you think that there are some parts that might work for you. This book *did* work for a lot of people, so you should give it a go if you can find a copy to borrow. And then you can decide for yourself how you feel and come back and let me know, because I’m curious. (There’s a lot going on in this one!)

      There were many things about it that didn’t work for me, but I do think the writing is totally great in places. In case that also sways you towards reading it! :) I just had so many other issues with the narrative that it couldn’t save the book for me.
      Layla recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  14. Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

    What a perfectly detailed review. I’d been side-eyeing this one and was considering the audiobook. Now that I’ve read all of this, though, I’m going to pass. Personally, I just can’t handle suicide stories when they’re combined with romances, since I also tried and quickly DNFed My Heart and Other Black Holes. It always seems like the romance is portrayed as the solution in some sense, which is very much not healthy. I mean, I guess it doesn’t help Finn here, but now he’s basically a MPDB. Thank you for saving me from this one.

    I really wish, in general, that there were more books where teens did end up seeking actual psychiatric help or therapy or whatever. There’s still stigma on that in our society and to combat that we need a lot of positive portrayals in the pop culture. The Last Time We Say Goodbye does have a nice therapy element, in case you’d be into that.
    Christina (A Reader of Fictions) recently posted…Review: The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

    • Layla

      I mean, I think it’s totally ok to pass this one over, but lots of people do seem to like it and I know I’m very much in the minority here.

      However, from what you’ve written, I think your impulses are spot on; if you aren’t a fan of suicide stories and romances, you’re probably not going to like ATBP. I’m totally with you on the “someone else’s love can’t / shouldn’t save you” boat; the weird thing about ATBP is that their love doesn’t save Finch, but it does in some ways save Violet, I think. Finch, for me, felt very much like the MPDB trope, but in a way that made me really uncomfortable; while the MPDG saves you by being quirky and irrepressible, Finch’s quirkiness is in part due to the fact that he’s dealing with an untreated bipolar disorder. (He doesn’t sleep, he shows up at her house in the middle of the night and tries to get her to go on adventures, but, like, these things are happening because he is dealing with shit, not because, as all of his friends and family think, he’s just Finch being Finch.) And so this was kind of worse to me, because the ways in which he changes her life as a MPDB are very much wrapped up in the ways in which he is grappling with bipolar disorder. And to have THAT as the mechanism through which Violet learns to live fully? No thank you. No thank you very much.

      And yes, agreed totally. I know that mental illness is stigmatized and under-treated, but I felt like psychiatric help and therapy were sort of being dismissed as real options in this book. (So, not just “why doesn’t someone help Finch?” but like “why are these actual options dismissed? why does it seem like his deah is a foregone conclusion?”) I will keep my eyes peeled for The Last Time We Say Goodbye – marked on GR! Thanks for the recommendation. Also, reading your review of The Glass Arrow is making me a sad panda; I had had such high hopes for that one.
      Layla recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  15. Valerie

    Ahh I’m sad you didn’t end up liking it! I hated how Finch was treated in this novel, but I took it as something the author did on purpose, to portray what happens in real life. Not everybody notices what’s going on, and sadly/unfortunately, love doesn’t “fix”/help/treat mental illness either. But I have to agree with you on how Finch aggressively goes for Violet. Now that I think about it, it was a little weird.

    Awesome analytical review!
    Valerie recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday #40

    • Layla

      I know. It’s a tricky thing. On the one hand, I know that Finch’s experiences are not uncommon – there’s such a stigma around mental health, and of course there are people in the world like Finch’s mother who refuse to acknowledge any illness that isn’t, like, the flu or a broken arm. And I also totally agree with you: love doesn’t fix mental illness, and that’s a totally awful and dangerous trope in fiction, too.

      But for me, I feel a little bit like the novel rejects psychiatric intervention (not that this is good or not without its problems, either) – or maybe doesn’t engage with it enough? Violet’s depression and suicidal ideation are seemingly resolved through Finch (through her relationship with him, through their adventures chronicling the interesting places in their hometown, and finally, through the final clues that he leaves her when he runs away and commits suicide). That this is never raised as a potential option for Violet bothered me, too. And it felt like Finch’s suicide was a foregone conclusion in the book – that he has to die so that Violet can learn to live.

      I know this is tl;dr (how I roll, unforch!) but basically – I want YA books to not romanticize mental illness + to present therapeutic options as actual options. And I totally know that this is based in like my own experiences with mental illness and will not be like … a universal reading of the book for any one by any means. And that’s ok! If it did work for other folks and touched or changed them, all the better. :)
      Layla recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

      • Valerie

        Yeah it’s sad how right you are though about how this ending is so romanticized. There’s a lot of YA books coming out this year that deal with mental illness/depression/eating disorders, so I hope that more options are mentioned than in ATBP
        Valerie recently posted…Read Play Blog #5

  16. Jaz

    Ooooh finally someone who didn’t like this. Everybody I know (including myself) loved this so it’s good to see a different opinion. You raised some excellent points and I totally agree with you about EVERYBODY failing Finch. It was really sad and I just read Alex’s review and also agree that the end was really romanticised.
    Reading this definitely triggered some really dark thoughts within me too, which is why I was really hesitant to read it – but I still loved it.
    Thanks for the awesome and thought provoking review!

    • Layla

      Yeah, I generally like it when there’s a diversity of opinions around a book – it’s always good to learn what other people have found compelling or interesting about something I just couldn’t get into. I know that I’m in the minority here and that most people will love it – & I’m glad that there are and that you are among their ranks. :)

      It was just really hard for me to read about, ugh, especially Finch’s parents and teachers showing basically ZERO concern for his mental health issues (pretending that they didn’t exist and treating his struggles as if they were totally normal and unconcerning. Bleh). And the ending just didn’t feel right to me; like, I can see (and totally, totally get) wanting some sort of closure around the death of someone you love, but this just didn’t work for me. It felt false and weird.

      Which is sad, because in some parts, I thought the writing was really great, and I really did want to like this one. But it was also, ugh, so troubling for me. And that said, if it’s triggering dark thoughts in you, I hope you’re doing ok and getting help if you need it.
      Layla recently posted…All the Bright Places: Review

  17. looloolooweez

    Thank you for writing a such a considered and articulate review. I really wish I hadn’t gotten a hold of a galley copy for this one, because if I’d had the benefit of reading your review — and the reviews of others with similar opinions — I’d have been better warned about the suicide/mental illness trigger potential of this book. No, I don’t think books actually need trigger warnings, and I’ve read books on similar topics without problems before… but this one threw me through a loop. I totally understand the comparisons to TFIOS or If I Stay, and I know that this is going to be popular with my teens, but I can’t even bring myself to booktalk it….
    looloolooweez recently posted…Book Review | We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler

    • Layla

      I mean, I think there are lots of people who will find something totally different in this book, though, and that’s okay, too. (The author’s note explains how she’s struggled with being a survivor of a close friend’s suicide, and I mean, if this book helps someone else in a similar position? Meh. I’m not going to say that’s a bad thing, though from my standpoint, I found it deeply upsetting).

      I’m not sure how I feel about trigger warnings on books in general, but I did want to give one here – I would be reluctant to give this to someone struggling with depression, and wanted to go through some of the reasons why it wouldn’t be my first choice. Additionally, because of the ways in which dealing with mental illness has touched my own life, this book was super challenging for me in places. Which is all to say – yeah, I do think approaching this with more knowledge rather than less can be a good thing. Anyway. Do you know why this one threw you for a loop?

      (I had my suspicions from the way the first meeting on the roof was written that this was going to be quirkier than I wanted it to be, but the end really bothered me. Also, a far more minor point, that they never actually seem to read Woolf but just want to quote passages from her books and suicide note to her husband. Argggh. I was so troubled by that.)
      Layla recently posted…All the Bright Places: Review

    • Layla

      I know. I was looking forward to it – and heard lots of good things about it at ALAN this year, where they promoted it a bit – so I’m sorry that I didn’t like it more. On the bright side, lots of people will and do like this book, so I don’t have to worry about it going unloved or anything. :) I’m bummed, though. I do get why lots of folks like it, but it just wasn’t going to work for me.
      Layla recently posted…All the Bright Places: Review