Jennifer Niven’s first Young Adult novel, All The Bright Places was released in January and has already established itself as a strong contender for Young Adult Book of the Year. The story of Finch and Violet has captivated and touched readers of all age groups.
Theodore Finch is a boy fascinated by death and constantly thinks of ways of how to end his life. Violet Markey is trying to cope with her sister’s death and of how to escape her Indiana town. Their paths cross on top of the school’s bell tower on a fateful morning: Finch saves Violet from jumping and then lets her take the credit as she is part of the popular crowd at school, while he is seen as more of an outsider and bad boy. After the event, Finch develops an interest in Violet and the two of them get paired on a school project. Their story unfolds from there.
Ms. Niven tells the story from the perspective of both Finch and Violet, alternating voices from chapter to chapter. She manages to give the chapters a different feel, with Finch’s writing and thoughts presented in a form that is more raw and unpolished. Violet’s chapters feel more like diary entries of a teenage girl. It is that difference that also makes Finch the more interesting character.
He comes across as unique, special and readers develop a deep connection to his thoughts and ideas. But it is always clear that he is struggling with life and coping with it. Ms. Niven really tries to convey his despair and his issues. Readers start to root for him to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
In Violet’s chapters, the focus is on her development and her growing up. Through Finch she slowly comes to terms with the fact that life goes on after tragedy, no matter how difficult it is. Some of the development feels forced, but all-in-all, Violet comes across as much more mature and settled person at the end of the novel.
The book focuses firmly on its two heroes, with minor characters such as their parents or friends sitting firmly at the sidelines.
Laughter and Sadness
Ms. Niven writes about heavy topics – suicide, loss, abuse – and still manages to inject many chapters with an incredible lightness and warmth. The topics are treated with respect, but the book keeps a hopeful tone throughout.
All the Bright Places is a smart book filled with brilliant and diverse literary references. Reading the author’s acknowledgments, she makes it clear that the novel is also a way of coping with events from her past. The story feels realistic and doesn’t shy away from being tough and devastating. And thanks to its great main characters, it also has its fair share of tender moments and hilarious occurences.
The author has a gift for quotable lines with You are all the colors in one, at full brightness already gaining traction on Social Media. Standing out are also the sequences about the beauty of words that will resonate with writers and readers alike.
All The Bright Places has been compared to The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. It definitely caters to the readers of the aforementioned Young Adult milestones. But it shouldn’t be compared to them, as it stands tall on its own merits.
Ms. Niven has written a great Young Adult novel and fans of the genre should definitely give it a look. All The Bright Places shines bright among the new Young Adult releases.