All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Reviewed for this blog by Geri, Ridgefield Library

All the Bright PlacesThis book came out waaaay back in January; will the Printz committee even remember to consider it?  I hope so. It’s not often you are introduced to your main characters while both are on a bell tower, contemplating suicide. But it’s also not often that a book captures the many angles of depression.

Last spring, Violet survived the car accident that killed her sister. She has been barely getting by, and now, on the first day of the new term, she has climbed the bell tower at school and is thinking of throwing herself off. Theodore Finch has been known as Freak for the past four years. He has very few friends, seems to reinvent himself every couple of months, and has a habit of disappearing for days at a time. Finch finds himself next to Violet on top of the bell tower and manages to talk her down. Saving Violet seems to have given Finch a new lease on life. He woos her, gets assigned to be her partner for a class project, and slowly brings Violet back to life. But this doesn’t mean his own demons have been defeated.

Both Violet and Finch alternate ( by chapters) telling their story. Finch is by turns warm, relatable, and sympathetic and then suddenly, manic. Violet is sharp and tightly wound, only becoming loose when she’s with Finch. Although very bad things happen, the story is not without humor and this lightens the mood from time to time. Niven deftly portrays all the nuances of depression while simultaneously crafting a romance and a school-story-inflected coming of age tale. She’s a very good writer. This is an emotional but never sentimental heart-wrenching book which is up for the Guardian’s Children’s Book Prize and is also, I hope, worthy of some Printz love.

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2 thoughts on “All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

  1. andreaingala Post author

    Geri! I am SO happy you reviewed this one. I LOVED it. LOVED the characters, setting, voice, pace – all yeses for me when looking at Printz criteria. But then I read this review (http://disabilityinkidlit.com/2015/01/16/alex-townsend-reviews-all-the-bright-places/) and I just can’t get it out of my head. [I would never try to paraphrase for fear of misrepresenting, so I’ll just leave the link there] Should this matter in the Printz’s eyes?

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    1. Geri Diorio

      Andrea, thank you for posting that review. It is thought provoking and absolutely on-target for that reviewer. I am not certain the Printz committee considers matters like this when judging a book. The criteria states “The Michael L. Printz Award annually honors the best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit, each year.” “Entirely on its literary merit” makes me think they will not use subject matter to judge. But it is good that reviewers like Ms. Townsend are out there so that readers can have a heads-up on subject matter.

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