All the Bright Places was last modified: November 2nd, 2015 by Jenny Sawyer
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Posted on by Jenny Sawyer
Title: The Hired Girl
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Title: Bellweather Rhapsody
Author: Kate Racculia
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: Fiction (YA, realistic/”issue”)
Year published: 2015
Length: 384 poignant, heartbreaking pages
Normally, popular girl Violet and weirdo Finch wouldn’t run in the same social circles. In the highly-stratified world of high school, they might never find a reason to cross paths at all. Except that one morning, fate leads Violet and Finch to the school’s bell tower, where both plan to kill themselves. When Finch saves Violet’s life, she’s thrust into his unpredictable world of highs and lows—of profound beauty and deep sadness. As the teens grow closer (and inevitably fall for each other because, let’s get real, this is a YA novel) Violet’s world begins to expand, even as Finch’s contracts. When it’s Violet’s turn to save Finch, will she be able to?
Illness—and, increasingly, mental illness—is a popular topic for YA novels these days. And why not? Melodrama sells. Really, I’m not being cynical; I’m just stating a fact.
Here’s another fact: Normally, I HATE books like All the Bright Places. I don’t like being set up for heartbreak and devastation. And I especially don’t like stories that lead me down the twisted, shadowy path of mental illness, because I’m a wimp and, for the most part, I don’t do well with upsetting subject matter.
So while it would be inaccurate to say that All the Bright Places completely won me over—I could never, ever read this book again—I will say that for me, this was a different kind of “illness book.”
Was it disturbing? Yes. Did I cry? Buckets.
But what made the book readable—and recommend-able—was that Jennifer Niven’s story didn’t for one moment feel exploitative. It didn’t feel like she was drawing me into these characters’ problems just to toy with my emotions. Instead, Violet and Finch came alive in the pages of this book. They felt like real people dealing with real issues. Difficult, heartbreaking issues, to be sure. But issues that teens are facing, and that need to be dealt with openly, honestly, and sensitively. Which Niven does incredibly well.
All the Bright Places really is a beautiful book that’s worth reading. More importantly, it’s one worth putting in the hands of teens who are thinking about how to help—or even just understand—other teens struggling with the burden of mental illness.