2016 reading challenge, Books, Reading challenges

All The Bright Places – 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.

My friend Lizzie works in a bookshop, and she’s started a YA book group. Lizzie is supercool and I’ve never actually been in a book group, so even though her bookshop is on the other side of London, I’m going to go along. This is the first book we’re going to be discussing.

All The Bright Places is a tough read. I’ve had a difficult week, and reading this didn’t soothe my feelings of impending doom at all. But the characters are alright, once you accept the teenage pretentiousness (and there’s plenty of it), and also how wrong teenagers can be about a lot of things while believing they know everything (we’ve all been there). The adventures they go on, the things that happen to them, are believable. I cared what happened to them. It was refreshing for a book – especially a YA one – about mental illness to not have someone “saved”, because the world doesn’t work like that. Not everyone gets better, you can’t love someone out of having a mental illness any more than you can love them out of having a broken leg, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love them. It’s honest, and painful, and true. It doesn’t soften the blow. It’s a good and important message. Also, flirting by the medium of Virginia Woolf  is the most lesbian thing I’ve seen in a heterosexual novel in ages.

Although it was a difficult read, and I ddin’t particularly like it, I’m looking forward to discussing it at book group, and hearing what everyone else thinks.


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