Tuesday, July 12, 2016

LS 5623.20 Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven

Niven, Jennifer. All the Bright Places. New York: Knopf, 2015. Print.

Theodore Finch and Violet Markey could not be any more different, or so it seems on the surface. The truth is, they are both battling similar inner demons. They both spend a lot of time thinking about death, and wondering if it would just be easier to leave everything behind. The two meet at the top of the school bell tower, where it seems they both were considering jumping. Finch quickly realizes that Violet's friends do not understand the situation, and instead pretends that Violet climbed the tower to save him. From there, the two begin a friendship and school partnership based on a mutual understanding. They can each be themselves around one another, but that does not necessarily make things easier. While Violet begins to overcome her difficulties, Finch's still prove to be too much, and he continues to struggle with where he wants his life to take him. 

Critical Analysis: 
The first thing that should be said about this novel is that it is most definitely targeted towards an older teen audience. There are many triggers involved including suicide, death, grief, depression, and mental illness. There are some individuals that struggle when reading materials with these topics involved, and so it is good to make sure that it does not get into the hands of someone it may cause discomfort to. However, with all of that being said, I do believe that this is a wonderful book for young adults to read, as long as they are of the appropriate age. The characters deal with topics and situations that a lot of people experience in life, and if they have not, one of their friends may/have. It gives them a way to see into the situation, and perhaps gain a better understanding of why someone may feel a certain way. 

Speaking of characters and their experiences, All the Bright Places packs a punch when it comes to our two protagonists. Often when there are two "main" characters in YA text, one seems to be a bit more developed or have more voice than the other. This is not the case in Niven's novel. Both characters are developed, complex characters. They both have their issues and inner workings, and we get to see a great deal inside both of their heads through dual perspective. This adds an interest in the book that we do not see in many young adult novels. I believe it will appeal to more young readers because there are two narrators, and one does happen to be a male. 

The writing itself in the book is something to discuss, and as Niven is a new author, I am shocked by how well written the novel is. The text is detailed and appeals to the senses, and really allows the reader to step into the shoes of the main characters. We get to follow them around as they explore exciting places in their Indiana city, and the description puts the reader in the book, and makes them want to continue reading. The emotion is raw and real, and if nothing else, it will leave the reader with a lot to think about. 

Creative Activity: The dual perspective is an interesting asset in this novel that we do not get to see in a lot of young adult text, so I think that is something that teachers could focus on. Along with that, with the writing being so good in general, it would be a wonderful model text for a variety of reasons. However, if students are working on fiction, and trying to really develop voice in their writing, this would be a great book to focus on. Students could create two of their own characters, and tell the same story from each of the character's point of view. They will have to realize how each character would look at the events differently, based on their personalities and background. It would be a thought-provoking and challenging assignment for students. 

Related Resources: 
Challenger Deep by Neil Shusterman - This is a fiction novel based on Shusterman's autistic son. This would be a wonderful companion piece because it focuses on the mental illness side of the theme, and gives another incredible look at this tough topic. 

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga - This book has the same theme of suicide and a friendship between a boy and a girl that help the characters deal with their struggles. It would be a good book to compare with All the Bright Places.

Published Review: 
Publisher's Weekly. All the Bright Places, 2014. Web. 12 July 2016. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-385-75588-7

1 comment:

  1. I’m going to be reading this for a YA lit class later this year. I’m glad that it’s well-written and gives the reader a lot to think about.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!


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