This book was kindly recommended for us by avid reader, editor and office pal Kimberly Davis.
Who wrote it?
Jennifer Niven – she’s written eight books, but All the Bright Places is her first book for teens and was published at the start of this year. You can find out more about her at www.jenniferniven.com and she’s on Twitter @jenniferniven (she’s one of those awesome authors who favourites your tweets).
What other books did it remind you of?
It doesn’t do either book justice, but the best way I can think of to describe All the Bright Places is by saying that it’s like The Fault in Our Stars but, instead of being about cancer, this one is about mental health. It’s fair to class All the Bright Places with books by authors like John Green and David Levithan because, while these authors all deal with your usual, very typical teenage dilemmas of love and self-definition, they do it in a really smart and perceptive way; a way that’s sensitive to how it feels to be a teenager, but that is also relevant to every adult who still suffers crises of who they are and what their place is in the world.
What issues/themes did it raise?
I’d say the central theme in this book is tragedy, and what we mean when we talk about tragedy. What makes one event more ‘tragic’ than another, and how do those of us affected by tragic events navigate them? Running in tandem with this is, of course, the theme of mental health and how we talk about it (or don’t). I don’t want to say too much more than that for fear of giving too much away . . .
What did it leave you thinking about?
All of the above! I read this book when there were some, er, disruptive things happening in my own life and it was actually perfect because I could offload all of the emotions I was keeping on the back burner into Violet and Theodore’s story.
It quite honestly broke my heart – I felt so frustrated by what happens to the characters, and that frustration extended into similar situations that happen all the time in real life. It really left me feeling devastated knowing how many people feel so alone in this world, and how many people are battling demons that they don’t know how to talk about; and, even if they could, to which others wouldn’t react compassionately.
Would you recommend it to others?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
It sounds trite, but I think this book is life-changing. I work with books, and when I finished reading this (after wiping my eyes and blowing my nose) all I could think was: THIS. This book is why books are important. This book is an example of how stories can change the world.
You can dismiss books for teens as just that – and this is definitely a teenage story – but I think what makes a book good has nothing to do with its target readership.
My recommendation comes with a warning, though: this book will probably make you cry like a baby, so I’d suggest avoiding public areas – or just other people in general – until you’ve finished it.
Plus, with film rights already optioned and Elle Fanning tipped as the leading lady, you should probably read it before everybody else does. It’s way better for your brain area than Fifty Shades, I promise.