We are within the second week of 2016 as I write this and I have just finished my second book of the year. I am attempting to read at a book a week pace until uni officially begins again and I become busier in hope of attaining at least 20 books on record for 2016 (maybe more).
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is a YA fiction novel about two protagonists: Finch, a boy whose psychological disorders and mental illnesses are seemingly ignored and fail to be detected, and Violet, a girl who is learning to live life again following the loss of her older sister in a car accident. It tells the tale of how strange Finch and cautious Violet meet and describes and follows their friendship and how it alters and changes themselves and their lives.
I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Violet’s life is improved and enthusiasm enriched by her encounters with Finch as it says so on the blurb where it also already suggests that Finch seems to be losing the will to live as Violet is gaining it.
Aside from this book being a generally enjoyable read for the typical reasons I always look for- good hook, interesting characters and fast-paced, to the point storyline, it is a book I will treasure and remember for other reasons. Despite it being for a younger (perhaps high school for relatability) audience- one I don’t classify myself as being a part of, this novel deals with so many sensitive topics that it is more important now than it ever has been to address and discuss.
I really felt for Finch, it was quite obvious to the reader that he was struggling with suffocating feelings of depression and hopelessness, his mind wasn’t working rationally or ‘typically’ as he was drawn to dark thoughts and week after week was a different version of himself. It was an interesting concept to have the reader so well informed as to easily discern depression and borderline personality disorder but the characters that can help Finch such as his family and friends fail to acknowledge that his symptoms are symptoms and instead dismiss them as personality traits whilst also introducing the issues surrounding labelling people with disorders and the effects that can have on a person who is scared of becoming characterised by this label.
I read this book in a matter of days, I became attached to these protagonists despite not always being able to picture what they look like. The message of the book was clear and Niven artistically sewed such serious issues into a book that wasn’t serious but was sweet and funny and heartwarming.
Books like these are wonderful to read and it is necessary that brilliant people like Niven write them as it was both entertaining and enlightening. I was captivated by the touching story and yet I absorbed knowledge of Finch’s situation; the symptoms of suicide were carefully outlined: emotional distancing, interest in death and questions of afterlife, mood swings, humouring depression, boxing up belongings as if someone will have to deal with them and throwing them out as if they will have no use for them etc. I was left questioning where we draw the line between personality traits and illness and how often do we dismiss a symptom as being typical of someone’s personality? Should we reassess how we characterise people and try to make the distinction between what is themselves and what might be a symptom of depression or a call for help?
I have a lot of love for this book and a lot of respect to Niven for approaching the topic of suicide. I really am glad that this book is getting the attention and credit it is receiving because it truly and utterly deserves to be praised and read and cherished by many many people who will maybe be more watchful and knowledgeable for having it.
If you’re a reader or have trusted my book reviews so far then go and get yourself a copy and I hope you love it as much as I did!