Leisure Literature: All the Bright Places

When I can find extra moments, there is always a list of books I want to read. Some I anticipate for months, some for years before I find the time to get to them, and some of them live up to the hype and some don’t. Leisure Literature is a book review column that details my thoughts on my recent readings.

Another book recently topping the charts, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven was the next story I decided to read recently. The story is centered around two high school seniors, one who is fascinated by death, and another who is trying to repair her emotional state after losing a loved one. The two meet each other for the first time on the top of the school bell tower, neither supposed to be there, both contemplating the jump.

Finch is a charismatic guy who thinks in a very unique way. Any ideas that flow out of his head go onto sticky notes and pasted up on his bedroom wall. Sometimes guitar compositions come out of nowhere. He enjoys thinking about death, but he swears to himself and the reader that he would never actually kill himself. He also flips personalities whenever he wants, changing into different versions of himself. Sometimes that version of him skives off school when he feels like it, with no regard to consequences. One version of him leads him to paint his bedroom walls a different color of his own volition.

Violet starts out far less strong than Finch. She has a cliche storyline that isn’t begun any better than normal; her sister has died and she’s trying to cope with it. As a result, she is very depressed. She has not been in a car since the accident, and she’s stopped writing (something she used to do with her sister and enjoyed very much).

Finch starts to fall for Violet, and she resists his incredibly flirty advances at first because she feels too broken and not repaired enough for someone else. This was also another huge cliche no-no; the guy tries to help repair and comfort her because he fell in love with her, and in the end that’s what pieces her back together. It was done realistically, but it didn’t completely convince me it was a cliche done well.

Although I didn’t relate to either Finch or Violet, their situations were conveyed well enough that I felt like I understood both of them. The one feeling I did share, though, was something Finch details as he starts to like Violet. He knows he’s been trying on all these different versions of Finch all the time, and they’re probably not the real him. But now, he doesn’t know what version of himself is the real version. This especially troubles him as he wonders if Violet likes the real him or just some version he has on that he doesn’t realize isn’t real. I can understand this feeling a lot.

The supporting cast in this book, including the parents, sisters, and school friends, were enjoyable. I appreciated that they were real people taking a normal, realistic role in a real story, rather than just side pieces, additional characters the author wanted to make up, or devices to the main characters’ stories. They had their own stories and those intersected with Finch and Violet’s stories the way they just happened to.

On the twist ending that I will not spoil: I personally did not see it coming, and I enjoyed that, because you hear the story from Finch’s head, his perception, and how he thinks about things, rather than a more objective outside reading on the situation. It really made me sympathize with Finch rather than expect any ending coming. I was rather oblivious to it, but perhaps that is just because of where I come from and what I am personally unfamiliar with.

On the flip side, because the author was cleverly hiding the ending from me the whole time, the middle went swimming and sagged a little bit. Since there wasn’t any apparent resolution or point to the events going on in the story in the middle, it became a little bit uninteresting. At one point it was very hard to continue on reading; I really had no idea there was going to be a resolving ending.

Other things: shoutout to bookmobiles, and the ending was eerily reminiscent of Paper Towns. I could call it out for copying, but it’s not copying; I guess I was just disappointed to read super similar plot points in different books.

Something super cool that I found–Violet and Eleanor’s website as described in the book was actually created to simulate it having actually happened and being “real”. Here it is. The posts stop just as abruptly as they were stopped in the story.

This book has a film adaptation coming out in 2017 starring Elle Fanning. Other than the director, further information has not been released. Niven will be writing the script, but otherwise we don’t know much about it yet. Perhaps this is just my muckraking paragraph since I really don’t believe in movies after books.

Leisure Literature: All the Bright Places


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