All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

First Published: 6 Jan 2015
YA, Contemporary, Mental Illness
Rating: skull_and_roses_avatar_by_kezzi_rose-d66jflvskull_and_roses_avatar_by_kezzi_rose-d66jflvskull_and_roses_avatar_by_kezzi_rose-d66jflvskull_and_roses_avatar_by_kezzi_rose-d66jflvskull_and_roses_avatar_by_kezzi_rose-d66jflv


Great representation of mental illness / This hit home / *trigger warning*


Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. (From Goodreads)


I have never read a book with such a strong, accurate representation of depression. It’s more than impressive


…you have depression, especially untreated.

On medication, this broke my heart. I don’t want to think about how much this would affect me if I were not on medication.


This book means so much more than my words can share, but here it goes…


The Author/Realism

Jennifer Niven did a wonderful job at depicting mental illness. I can only truly vouch for the depression portion, but if she was as spot on in the manic portion as she is in the depression, she rocked it. I can’t think of another book that grasps this illness better than she does here.

The MCs

I love our MCs. They are flawed, they have issues, they are adorable. I’m not confident about the realism of their relationship, but it is enjoyable to read/think about.


Trigger warning

This book reminded me what it feels like to be me, without medication. It reminded me that I never thought or wanted to live as long as I am. I adore this book, but I try not to think about it, get emotional when I hear/read/see it’s name or anything that has to do with it, and could never read this book again.

I saw on twitter where people have read this 3x 4x 6x.. and I can’t help to wonder if they missed the representation or if not having depression significantly alters your view on this book.

The “point”

It wasn’t until I read another review that I realized there was supposed to be a point to this story – to look out for people (including yourself) who are suffering and help them (or yourself) out. This is clearly said in the acknowledgements, and maybe this is what the reviewer was referring to, but I missed it in the book. All I saw was the idea that “life moves on”.


I will never be able to re-read this book, as much as I adore it, but I would read more from this author.


…those who have someone in their life that has bipolar/depression and/or who want to understand how the illness truly feels.


“I’m not ready.” These are the three magic words. I’ve discovered they can get you out of almost anything.

“Always finish what you start, man.”

“I thought it was a good idea not to get myself incarcerated before I have a chance to get laid again.”

“Getting arrested might actually increase your odds of getting laid.”

“Not the kind of odds I’m looking for.”

I’ve learned the hard way that the best thing to do is say nothing about what you’re really thinking. If you say nothing, they’ll assume you’re thinking nothing, only what you let them see.

When I get there, Finch makes me crawl up the fire escape and climb in the window so I don’t run into his mom or sisters.

“Do you think they saw?” I brush the dust off my jeans.

“I doubt it. They’re not even home.” He laughs when I pinch his arm…

I know this is a long one, but it explains so much of how depression feels, at least to me.

Is today a good day to die? This is something I ask myself in the morning when I wake up. In third period when I’m trying to keep my eyes open while Mr. Schroeder drones on and on. At the supper table as I’m passing the green beans. At night when I’m lying awake because my brain won’t shut off due to all there is to think about. Is today the day? And if not today—when? I am asking myself this now as I stand on a narrow ledge six stories above the ground. I’m so high up, I’m practically part of the sky. I look down at the pavement below, and the world tilts. I close my eyes, enjoying the way everything spins. Maybe this time I’ll do it—let the air carry me away. It will be like floating in a pool, drifting off until there’s nothing. I don’t remember climbing up here. In fact, I don’t remember much of anything before Sunday, at least not anything so far this winter. This happens every time—the blanking out, the waking up. I’m like that old man with the beard, Rip Van Winkle. Now you see me, now you don’t. You’d think I’d have gotten used to it, but this last time was the worst yet because I wasn’t asleep for a couple days or a week or two—I was asleep for the holidays, meaning Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I can’t tell you what was different this time around, only that when I woke up, I felt deader than usual.

How this hit home/ I relate


In All the Bright Places, our MC’s life is a cycle of times where he is aware, active, and participatory in his life (Awake) and times where he is awake, but not mentally present (Asleep). When I first read this and these portions, I felt that our MC was being a bit melodramatic by characterizing his life this way. Then I thought about it, and, you know what? I realized how much the three years of medication made a different and I realized that I experienced this cycle often. I know what it feels like to wake up (mentally) when you are awake (physically). I remember waking up while driving, at school, working, etc.

It’s an odd feeling, hard to explain. The first questions that come to your mind are “What am I doing?”, “Where am I going”, “Who am I?”. Sometimes, this works out okay, sometimes it doesn’t. Most times, the first two questions are answered and the third is left floating. More often than not, it results in a panic attack and a dive back into “Asleep”.

I never knew how to explain it, and tried a time or two, but never found someone who could validate this experience until this book. It’s hard to reflect on, but Niven hit the nail on the head with her representation of this.

Changing Styles

It’s funny how reading the book, holding everything at arm’s length, shines light on how silly some of our feelings can be. Our MC constantly changes his style, from the clothes he wears to the personality he adorns. It leaves the reader wondering, what won’t you just be you? As our MC explains, it’s not that simple when you have depression. You often don’t know who you are, just who you want to be in that moment (and, many times, who you are not good enough to be).

Testing the Limits

There are times in this book where the MC pushes the limits of life, leading the reader to plead with him to stop being so stupid to keep going. I wish I could say this doesn’t happen in life….


I won’t say much about this. In life, this happens the way our MC experiences to varying degrees. Disappearing is the retreat into one’s self in order to feel safe.

There’s more, but I shouldn’t go on. (I’m not up for the details).


7 thoughts on “All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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