Liz Currently Loves….All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven


Publication Date: 8th January 2015 from Penguin Randomhouse UK Childrens

Source: Netgalley

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

First of all I should say thank you (I think!) to Louise O Neill (author of Only Ever Yours) for telling me I should read this one – she was completely right about it, a novel that demands to be read, absorbed and committed to memory. It is certainly stuck in my head for good and if my Top Ten Reads of 2014 list was still open you would absolutely find this on it, possibly even right there at number one. As it is it is now in the running for next year and the books of 2015 are going to have to go some to beat this one for pure emotional reaction and resonance.

When Theodore Finch meets Violet Markey under somewhat unusual circumstances, a compelling and fascinating friendship begins. Both damaged in different ways, they come together to work on a school project and everything changes.

Gosh this is hard to review to be honest. On the surface it is simply another teen tale, another Young Adult drama with all the angst and ups and downs you come to expect, but underneath is an affecting tale, one that sinks into your subconcious and hovers there, with something very important to say about love, loss, grief and state of mind.

Theodore Finch is a marvel of a character, unbelievably likeable, authentic and coming alive straight off the page, yet there is a darkness hovering inside him that he struggles with every single day. Violet, suffering from survivor guilt after her Sister died in a car accident is still trying to come to terms with her loss and work out how on earth she will live the rest of her life. The relationship that develops between these two is utterly compelling, totally gripping and credible, the author taking the time to make it real with no rush to judgement. As you read the people and the places will pop and the pages practically turn themselves.

It is an entertaining read for sure but it is so much more than that. Oh so much more.

The subjects addressed here are emotional and all too real for a lot of people, not spoken about nearly so loudly or so often as they should be. With sensitivity and grace, Ms Niven paints a picture for us of the difficulties of knowing when a person truly needs help and indeed, of how easy it is to bury your head in the sand.  Sometimes the people who shine the brightest are the ones who have the most difficulty internally- a truth sharply acknowledged in this story and brought to the forefront instead of being hidden in the background. Finch, with his unerring life quality, his sharp observations about his own feelings and the need other people have to put a label on them, how he describes with absolute and perfect clarity what it is actually like when you are suffering from something more than the normal coming of age issues, it will have you  gripped in an emotion I can’t even describe.

I feel like I should talk more about Violet, a girl who has suffered an unimaginable loss, through her we see another side of Finch and through Finch we see another side of her. As they take turns to tell us what is going on, there is a particular beauty to it all, again pretty indescribable, the tentative reaching out of one damaged soul to another is pitch perfect and absolutely engaging. They are both as real to me as anyone I have ever met and there it is right there.

There was one point in this book, one particular paragraph that resonated with me so completely that I had to read it several times, and have gone back and read it several times since – I won’t quote it here, the novel needs to be read in your own headspace not in mine – but it illustrates how much this has to offer above and beyond the wonder of an excellent story well told. This is one of those important books, one of those you feel like forcing on everyone whether they like it or not, I’m probably about to become very annoying to a lot of people.

At the end I was crying great big buckets of tears – I was distraught, a wet rag of seething emotion and it took a good few hours for that to calm down.Then I read the authors afterword, where she speaks about where the story came from and I was off all over again. Now writing up this review I am undone once more – but I’m so pleased I read this. If I hadnt I wouldnt have known Finch or Violet or those around them, and that would be a huge loss for sure. On top of that this is a book that demands to be read for no other reason than it may help understanding grow of the very real, often invisible, life threatening issues that affect those with mental illness. Apologies to Finch for the use of the label…

Unbelievably real, beautiful writing, wonderful characters and a story that will stay with you forever, just read it. Read it now. It is worth every second of the trauma.

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4 Responses to Liz Currently Loves….All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

  1. carol says:

    can wait to read this now

  2. Jennifer Niven says:

    Thank you for this lovely, lovely review! <3

  3. Mary says:

    Thank you for the review and recommendations. You do such important work. We all owe you a great debt.

  4. Mary says:

    Liz you really are a national world wide treasure. I want to thank you for all the wonderful recommendations you have gave to me. I have the Rod Reynolds book so I will start with that. Then I think I will read the Jennifer Niven book next. Thank you so much for all that you do to enrich the reading experience.

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