Saturday, 4 November 2017

Book Review: All the Bright Places

Recently, I’ve been indulging Young Adult fiction more regularly; although this is fairly unintentional. I decided to read All the Bright Places after seeing various reviews comparing the novel to The Fault in Our Stars, a novel that is extremely famous within the YA community, and one that I enjoyed. However, I disagree that the two novels are similar as they explore death in very different ways. I was almost immediately intrigued by the idea that the novel is about ‘the story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die’. Within teenagers, depression is something that is common but not widely treated so its nice to see two characters with different live and perspectives suffering from it; I also liked that the two characters were different genders as that added to the idea that depression can affect anyone, male or female and from any walk of life as one character is privileged and the other fairly underprivileged. The running themes of identity, mental health and relationships are handled carefully by the author, not exaggerated and seem like believable issues for not only teenagers, as they are problems that can arise in many people so therefore the novel is fairly easy to relate to on a personal level.

Violet struggles to live because of a car accident that she survived; in many ways her suffering can be described as survivor’s guilt, whereas Theodore (Finch) has had a troubled upbringing which has really affected his ability to live. They become attached to each other after they somehow save each others life, therefore forming an unbreakable bond. Finch is fascinated by death, near constantly dreaming up ways of committing suicide and weighing up the pros and cons of various ways of doing so. In some ways this seems like a coping mechanism, a way of finding a reason to be alive. Both teenagers are seeing therapists but still struggle with living a day to day life for different reasons. The pair truly brought out the best within each other; Violet became more outgoing, Finch learnt to find happiness through living his version of a perfect day, encouraged by Violet.

This book is somewhat unique because even the ‘perfect day’ was essentially having good company and exploring, travelling and finding even the most obscure of places to represent what somewhere (and something) can mean to someone. It references the powerful feelings of first love as well as loss. Forever is simply a few months or years. Violet and Theo (Finch) definitely believe that love can fix everything, that it can cover all of cracks caused by emotional pain and suffering but as time goes on, they also realise that life isn’t quite as simple as that, but regardless they try so hard to fight for the other through their shared love. Life and death are the raw themes of the novel and coupled with teenage angst, the subjects are explored well. The constant attempts to find reasons to stay alive, focusing on each other, the time they spend with each other and the want to complete all of their life goals before it is too late are some of the most important elements to the plot.

Some novels are difficult to read because of complicated prose, others for their difficult subject matters. This novel is one that is hard to put down as you become so engaged with the two main characters and actually they have a beautiful love story. However, I did find this book exhausting. It was hard to see Violet and Finch really seem to find something in one another, only for it to swiftly end; love doesn’t always cover the cracks in life’s other areas, unfortunately. Their love is pretty intense, as love can often be but overall I felt like the author did an excellent job of recreating the feelings of teenage love, loss and angst. I actually become so engrossed in their backstories, their reasons for being so depressed and eventually in their love story that I genuinely believed that their love would be enough, although it wasn’t. This novel explored a range of themes well and I truly felt so engaged with the plot to the point that I was genuinely upset at various points, particularly with how the story ended. Many have suggested that this novel glamourises death, but i disagree; to me, it felt like the novel was portraying life as positive and death as negative. Overall, I felt as though the novel had an overriding message that it is of utmost importance to not gloss over mental health; that you should never be afraid to cry for help if you need it, which is why I found it to be so powerful. Generally, I do enjoy books that encourage you to think and also stick in your mind; this novel is one that achieves both of those things and therefore why I recommend reading it.

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