You know how everyone compares every YA book to The Fault in Our Stars and/or Eleanor & Park, well that’s exactly what I’m about to do, but I swear, the comparisons are legit. Before I get into telling you all the reasons you’re going to love Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places, let me tell you that they movie rights for this book were purchased back in July 2014. That seems like legit proof that this book is going to be something special, right? Okay, now it’s time to tell you all about all the way that this book made me look like a cry-baby on the TTC.
This is the story of Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. Two teenagers that meet in an unlikely circumstance. Both climb the bell tower of their school to “figure things out” and to weigh their options. Instead of doing the unthinkable act that you do when you climb up on top of a tower in the late evening, the two hit it off and decide to form an unlikely friendship that proves to benefit them both.
Finch has been suffering with depression for quite some time. He can’t seem to shake the darkness that he feels. He constantly thinks up ways in which he can take his own life and finally put an end to the misery he’s feeling. Violet is suffering a different darkness. After her sister’s death, she’s grieving in a way that others don’t seem to understand. Nothing makes sense and everything seems disconnected. That’s why their meeting has a profound importance to both of them. Rather than getting swallowed by their darkness, the two decide to work on discovering the “natural wonders” of their state in order to expand their horizons. This attempt at focusing on the good things and the small things that surround them have different effects on both of their mental states and what ultimately ends up happening leaves the reader sitting with the book open on the last page, scared to close it, because they don’t want it to be over.
I read this book back in September 2014, which is right around the time that Robin Williams, the brilliant actor and Father to three children, took his own life. I think the thing about his death that left me so shaken up is that when I read about his suicide, I was in shock. No one that happy, that full of life would take their own life… would they? This had to be a different Robin Williams I was reading about in the papers!? But no, it was the blue genie, the hilarious Mrs. Doubtfire and the man that appeared so vibrant, so full of himself. I learned in that moment that people decide what you see, how they act and hope to be perceived by others is sometimes all an act. Depression and anxiety are mental disorders, they rob people of their ability to see things clearly and claim the lives of one in five Canadians. This is not something to take lightly and it is not something that can be cured overnight. Jennifer Niven tackles this topic with grace, dignity and knowledge. She writes with a knowing confidence that really taps into those real life situations, just as John Green and Rainbow Rowell have done in their brilliant novels.
I strongly urge each and every one of you to pick up this novel, because it’s one that matters and it’s one that you won’t soon forget.
If you suffer from any type of mental disorder, please know that you are not alone and you can find help by visiting Canadian Mental Health Association OR if you’re in the United States, you can receive help by visiting the National Institute of Mental Health.