SPOILER ALERT- References to the plot that cannot be unread.
I have read an uncountable amount of novels in my 22 years, and in that vast selection, one can find a rather varied range of literature surrounding mental illness and suicide. If you are new to my blog, then you won’t be aware of my own debilitating mental illness. But it is because of my own experience with Borderline Personality Disorder and my mothers experience with Bipolar disorder that I am so intrigued by the troubled mind and the literature that can come from it. Something I undoubtedly do when reading these types of novels is compare my own experiences and emotions with the main characters that possess the mental health problems. I am constantly in search of a novel with a protagonist/antagonist that feels and sounds like myself. All The Bright Places‘ Theodore Finch is by far the closest I’ve come to a reflection of myself, and because of this, it is now in my top five favorite novels of all time.
The story surrounds seventeen year old’s Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. Although they had previously never really crossed paths at school, they meet quite unexpectedly on the top of their school bell tower, both in the mood to jump. Violet is suffering the horrendous grief of losing her sister in a car accident less than a year previously and Theodore is both suffering and enjoying the strange places a mentally ill mind can take you. After Finch saves Violet from becoming another suicide victim, they strike up a chaotic and often beautiful friendship which later becomes more romantic in nature. The more time Violet spends with Finch, the more she starts to see the world through his eyes, taking another brave step each day. It soon becomes apparent that Finch is saving Violet from herself, re-awakening her will to live, meanwhile suffering the blows of his own abusive father and neglectful mother. As time passes, Violet starts to see that she is not the only one in need of saving, but is clueless on how to stop Finch burning himself on his own fiery soul. In the end we as a reader realize that Finch’s story is not going to go on as long as Violets and it does eventually come to a watery end, leaving Violet once more alone in the world, now missing the two people she loved the most.
All The Bright Places is written in two points of view, Finch’s perspective and Violets. In my opinion, Finch’s is by far the most intriguing. His view upon the world is far different to that of Violets who still lives a relatively normal existence. But in comparison, shows up just how different Finch’s mind really is and in turn, reminds me of how different my own thought processes can be to that of other individuals. Finch has a unique perspective on the world which is both gothic and inspiring. He sees and understands all that is bad and cruel within the world, but because of this, has a better understanding and penchant for all that is good. He lives to experience the world in all its chaotic wonders. Violet is drawn to him because of his ability to feel, the way he is in touch with himself and the things around him. This novel is written in such a way that it is both brutal and honest. Jennifer Niven has not written this novel with judgement in her tone, only honesty and understanding. She highlights the good, the bad and the ugly sides of life living with or beside someone with mental illness, something many authors neglect to do, often creating only one perception of this life. I recommend anyone that lives with a person with mental illness to read this novel, if for nothing other than trying to understand the thought process of someone like us. It may be hard for someone who has the illness discussed in the novel (Bipolar) or of similar symptoms to read, I myself have felt my mood deplete somewhat at the realization of what could’ve been and what is lost in the death of a person similar to me. But for those with simply curious minds, this is the novel for you, to see and understand a whole new perspective on the world.
By Lauren Victoria Noding