I had to take a break from teen fiction for awhile. All of the stories started to blend together for me and nothing really unique was on my radar. When All the Bright Places showed up, I was pretty sure it was going to be just another book about teens with depression, lacking in anything truly special, but I picked it up -- honestly, because I loved the cover. Well done, cover artist.
What I found in this story was two teens that seemed so incredibly real, I was instantly connected to both of them. Violet and Finch are a pair of kids screaming for help, but so silently that no one can hear them, except each other.
Jennifer Niven wrote a beautiful story about finding first love, what it means to save someone, and how depression can infiltrate every portion of someone's life without anyone else ever knowing. The grief Violet was suffering from and her manner of dealing with it were realistic and pure and had me tearing up several times. She was a broken girl, yet people just let her pass through life like it was ok, always believing she would just snap out of it.
Finch was absolutely fascinating and just might make the list of Fictional Characters I'd Like to Have Dinner With. He had enough quirks that I couldn't wait to see what he would do next, but also an underlying sadness that showed the truer side of depression. Amazing characterization.
As someone who has suffered from depression on and off for almost half my life, Jennifer Niven got it. She wrote a beautiful story with fabulous characters, all while getting to the depths of what depression can mean, especially when in the years when you simply don't understand the resources available to you and that there really can be light in the darkness. This is an incredibly important book that I hope gets into the hands of lots of teens.
Comparisons have been made to John Green and I definitely get the reference. The love between these characters, though slightly more awkward, is reminiscent of Hazel and Gus, which is obviously one of my favorite teen love stories of all time. If my words above don't convince you to read it, maybe a Hazel/Gus comparison will.