Friday, June 9, 2017

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven | Review

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places - Ernest Hemingway.

Violet and Finch are broken.

Finch is an outcast. He shuns the popular students at school for his various personas depending on his mood. He routinely disappears, people take it as typical behaviour and stop questioning it. His father is abusive, his mother is depressive, his counsellor tries to connect with him but Finch isn’t interested. He doesn’t want to love anyone, until he meets Violet.

Violet survived a car crash which killed her older sister. The grief forces her to withdraw from her friends and boyfriend. She walks or cycles everywhere, she will not get in a car again. The words which once spilled from her mind have gone: she cannot write. The two meet at the top of their school’s bell tower, both of them are contemplating suicide.

In some ways, it is your typical young adult novel. They are intelligent, quirky, well-read individuals who quote Virginia Woolf at one another (without actually reading her work in full…I wondered what message that was supposed to send about literature? That it can be picked apart and remain intact?) There is a charm to the story, though. It encourages you to look more closely at the ordinary and mundane elements of our lives: the people and places that have become the backdrop to our inward lives.

I am not convinced, however, that its management of the theme of suicide is entirely responsible. Whilst the numbers for numerous suicide and depression helplines have been added at the back of the novel, the characters didn’t receive much support in the novel. The school counsellor consoles themselves / the reader that they did all that they could….although I probably could have done a whole lot more. Nobody cared that a teenager disappeared for weeks on end. Nobody. Not their family, their educators, their girlfriend, their friends…they all took it as typical behaviour. It all just felt a bit heavy handed and I am not convinced that including helpline numbers will convince suicidal people that there is someone who cares about them when this character went unnoticed and uncared for.



1 comment

Kim @ Kim Bocko said...

Great review! I loved this book. Loved, loved it. But I totally agree that the way Finch's disappearance was handled was poor, at best. Even if his relationship with his family wasn't the best, it was mind boggling to me that people were not more worried about him.

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