Sunday, November 29, 2015

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
 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.

Rating: 2/5 Stars

I tend to avoid books that deal with depression because I don’t want to be reminded of my own (though the bastard still comes, no matter what I do but hey, I’ll do what I can). But I think they are extremely important for people to understand this crappy disease, and all it entails.

So I went into All The Bright Places expecting to be punched in the gut. I could already see myself nodding along to the story, identifying myself with the characters and what they were going through and yet…

I felt nothing. This book, even though it deals with something that I’m very familiar with did not ring true to me. I couldn’t connect with the characters or the story, and I was honestly a bit bored up until 70% of my reading.

The characters dealing with their depression was nothing like what it was with me in high school. Not to say that it was wrong, I’m just saying it to show how I did not connect with it.

Rather than believing that depression made me more interesting, darker and better than other people like Violet and Finch did, I spent most of my days wondering “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be like everybody else?” I can’t explain what it was like to watch my classmates playing, laughing and making friends. It was so distant to me, their happiness was… strange. I wanted that, I wanted to be with them and be friends with them instead of feeling that way, like everything was too much.

So I couldn’t relate to Violet and Finch, who made depression seem like a quirky little thing to have that made them “special” somehow, that connected them as the only two people who understood each other since everybody at their homes was too busy with each themselves to care about their kids. And it was this treatment that diminished my enjoyment of the book, because every time it tried to bring out the seriousness of the issue, I wouldn’t buy it. Not after romanticizing it as if it were something cool.

Moreover, and this brings the question that I make every time I read about this stuff on books in the US. Is the society really like this?

Violet and Finch were always ignored and ridiculed for having depression. Students were constantly making jokes at school and, even though everybody knew that Finch had suicidal thoughts, nobody gave two craps about it. In fact, at one point in the novel some assholes release a “newspaper” detailing the top ten kids with depression at school (who the hell let that thing get published?) and the authorities did nothing, in fact they seemed to blame the kids that were on the magazine rather than the insensitive idiots who wrote it!

I just don’t buy it, I may not know a great deal about North American culture but I know that more than one parent would have filed a lawsuit against the school, and rightfully so.
It seemed like everybody was against this duo, just to make their situation even crappier. You are telling me there was no other decent person in that town?

I did not appreciate the amount of slut-shaming in this book. Violet is a virgin, and for some deranged reason, she believes that makes her superior to other girls… What is this mentality? And even after Violet has sex herself, she thinks she’s a slut.
 What the hell is a slut, can somebody tell me? Because I fail to see how having fun without hurting anybody makes you worthy of such a disgusting insult.

However, there were many great things about this book, little ideas here and there that I could identify with, like feeling guilty over having those thoughts, as if it were their fault but mostly, and despite All The Bright Places dealing with something close to me, I thought it’s only strength laid in the fact that it was a book about depression and suicide, albeit it dealt with it rather lightly.

Now, I know that depression is different for everybody and I’m not going to say “This book isn’t about depression!” Simply because I didn’t identify with it, a lot of people have and will, and that’s amazing! But I was looking forward to somethig different, and I often felt like the author was romanticizing a disease to make the main characters seem “cooler”.


  1. Aww man. I requested this book from the library because I heard it was getting a film adaptation starring Elle Fanning. And I love Elle Fanning so much I figured I'd read it.

    I'll get through it either way. I've never had depression, so I can't say I'll have a first hand knowledge to compare how it's portrayed in the book. But so many people close to me--friends, family, boyfriends--have battled it that, honestly, it does twinge on a personal level when it's not portrayed accurately in novels.

  2. The whole "slut" thing is a confusing topic in a culture ruled by hypocrites such as the U.S. I liked how they handled the issue in the movie Clueless: If you don't have sex you're a prude, but if you do have sex you're a slut. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. So I understood where Violet was coming from, even though I didn't share that point of view. I thought it was an interesting book, but *SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!*

    I stopped reading after they found his bloated body because I don't read to get depressed.


    I just skipped to the last page to see how it ended, and then went on to the next book. I didn't identify with the characters either, perhaps for the reasons you stated, but they were interesting enough for me to stick with most of it.