All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
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.
First let me start off saying that I appreciate the lack of insta love, even though I felt that Violet and Finch’s feelings for each other seemed exaggerated almost.
I like the adventures that they went on together. I love that Violet broke out of her shell to blend in with the popular crowd instead of being her own person.
I knew that Finch wasn’t going to make it to the end of this book. I hate that because I really wanted him too but I also appreciate that she didn’t make it seem like a “love can save you” sort of thing.
I hate that his parents called it an accident. Surely, it must be hard to face the truth but lying won’t change the facts. I also hate that everyone was just okay with him disappearing. I know that everyone felt like that was just a thing he does but did no one try to figure out why? Especially his family since they know that he was abused as a child.
Aside from the fact that I mostly liked this book, Niven has A LOT of problematic scenarios and phrases within it:
- “Charlie is black. Not CW black, but black-black”
- First of all, that’s not how you introduce someone who apparently is the only person of color in your entire novel (way to fucking go). Second, what the fuck does that even mean? Not all black people act the same and who the hell do you think you are (especially as a white woman – or at lease white passing) to determine which “type of black” is the correct portrayal?
- “Too many high school girls are built like boys”
- Way to body shame! Again, what does this mean? Girls can’t have muscles and boys can’t be lean. Okay, I thought the world was taking a teeny tiny step forward but maybe not.
- Amanda is portrayed as the stereotypical “slutty cheerleader”
- If she’s promiscuous, so what? That doesn’t give the right to slut shame. Also we find out later that she has an eating disorder and has attempted suicide twice. I guess this is one of those “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” moments but seriously, calling her a slut was unnecessary.
- 98% of the teenage boys in this book only care about sex
- Sure, hormones and all but portraying a stereotype like that normalizes it and makes people think it’s acceptable. It’s not.
- Girl hate and body shaming
- Mostly from Bren which kind of surprised me. Again, completely unnecessary and a trend in YA that needs to be stopped.
- The “Top 10 Suicidal Students” list
- Who the fuck makes a list like that? I guess that it’s supposed to feed into the idea that “kids are cruel” and “high school is rough” but really? I don’t find it necessary
- When Violet says she doesn’t know if she wants to get back with Ryan and his response is “I’m going to keep asking.”
- This is a problem. Coercing someone into a relationship is not healthy and you are not owed someone’s attention or affection just because you want it.
- Finch showing up at Violet’s house at 2 am and demanding she go with him
- Also, not healthy. I mean seriously what the fuck?
- Bren calling Finch a “wuss” for not getting into a fight
- Aren’t most people’s ideas of masculinity toxic enough?
- “Girls who do are sluts, and girls who don’t are teases”
- So, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. There’s no way to win because people will judge you regardless. Great thing to tell young girls.
- Calling bipolar disorder a label for “crazy people”
- Cause the stigma around mental health just isn’t bad enough
- The school doing a presentation on drug use and self defense in response to Finch’s death
- Most schools don’t implement proper programs for trauma until after a traumatic experience has already happened. However, this had nothing to do with what happened to Finch, so they didn’t even address the problem.
Niven portrayed a lot of dangerous stereotypes and I wasn’t sure whether to applaud her for proving a point or be pissed because she believed them. I’m leaning more towards the fact that she wrote most of them to prove a point since Violet is based off of herself. However, some of the comments were still unnecessary and had nothing to do with the plot (like the one about Charlie).
Aside from these points I really did like the book but some of the things said held me back from rating it higher. I get that some people believe the toxic things that came up, but I’m not sure that continuing to repeat them instead of combating them is helpful.
3 out of 5 stars.