There’s not much I can say about this book without ruining it, and seen as it is a fairly new book, I’ll try to keep this review as spoiler free as I can.
All The Bright Places is an amazing, heartfelt and emotive tale of two teens who meet up on their school’s ledge, both wondering if suicide is better than living. Theodore Finch is a teen who nearing adulthood, fears that he will be consumed by the blackouts he has – periods of time where he is not himself, the times that he calls being asleep. Violet Markey plays with the line between life and death after the accidental passing of her older sister, Eleanor, in a car crash. The two of them embark on a school project together, and ultimately fall in love, however, as Violet begins to gain her confidence back, Finch’s declines and this time the black out, the dark pit that he falls into, consumes him.
These two characters spoke to me on so many different levels.
As someone who personally has witnessed more suicide attempts than any twenty year old (or anyone for that matter), should see, I know what it is like to see someone slip that far. My mother suffers from severe depression, and my father lapses into depressive cycles, ones that force him to drink. His most recent cycle drove him to down pills with vodka, it was so bad we had a police search and rescue team in and out of our house/town, until one thirty in the morning. Not only that, I too have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety (which seem to come hand in hand), along with OCD, so this book and all that it does for mental illnesses really struck a chord with me.
I’ve noticed over the years that suicide is not seen for what it should be seen as. Instead, of seeing it as a cry for help, the need for someone to listen, the helplessness a person feels, the utter destruction of their strength and their need to escape, it is seen as something sinful, something selfish. This is not fair. It’s not fair at all.
Suicide is something that is terribly upsetting, to have such thoughts and then actually carry them through, takes a serious amount of willpower and stress, it also means that the person can no longer see a light, so while they have the strength to end their lives, they do not have the strength to continue living. It is also deeply upsetting for those closest to the victim and really shows how people who are suffering with mental illnesses (not just the ones mentioned, but all), really need help; they need someone to listen and take care of them.
In the book, Finch’s family, do not seem to understand the extent of his downfall. It is almost as if they’re able to brush it off, saying that ‘it’s something he does’, when this is not fair at all. Never, not even if someone has been through a depressive cycle before, should their loved ones think that it will clear up on its own. Mental illness doesn’t work that way. It’s not like a cut that heals quickly, it takes time, patience, it takes medication, and whatever support the person needs – therapy, love from friends and family.
It’s not something that can be wished away with a comforting ‘you’ll be all right’ and that’s that.
There is a stark difference between Finch’s family and Violet’s because when she tells them what has been going on, they jump up to help, even though it’s not their son in danger or their responsibility – it is just the human thing to do, to help someone who cannot, will not help themselves.
Finch’s and Violet’s relationship steadily grows, showing how two strangers, when bonded in something so frightening and life changing, can never go back to who they used to be. They are changed, but for the better, they keep each other sane, they help each other. It’s just while Finch loved her and found solace in her company, the darkness had a stronger hold on him and sadly, pulled him under, keeping him there. The light had faded far too quickly and was not enough to keep him above water. Sometimes, no matter how much you love the people around you, nothing seems to help, because you’ve drowned, you’ve fallen into a bottomless pit that hurts and scars, and not even the ones you love can save you – not even they can keep you afloat.
I won’t say much about the plot, I don’t want to give too much away. But this novel really does explore a lot of things aside from mental illness as well – family, friends, school, popularity, the masks that people put on to hide who they really are. I was deeply affected by the ending of the novel, I thought, I hoped that Finch would be able to overcome his battles. During the especially dark parts of the book, it reminded me of a friend who passed away and how people who didn’t even speak to him, or get along with him, came to his funeral as if they were best friends.
I sobbed after finishing this book.
Especially after reading Finch’s song to Violet, seeing her go on the journey and adventure of finishing their project, then seeing that this is based off something the actual author, Jennifer Niven went through herself, and the song he wrote her. This was a book I had to read alone and take a deep breath after, I couldn’t speak to anyone after and I just cried and cried. I cried for all those people who have lost their lives due to mental illness, and to all the families left behind. I cried for my own family and our battles, for the characters, for my friend.
The ending was so bittersweet, while the reader is happy that Violet has gotten to a place where she is hopeful for the future, it is without Finch, when he was the one that pushed her to keep trying, to keep living. And then, the one person who understood her better than her own family, was gone.
And he was never coming back.
He’d dived to find the other world, the deep blue, the somewhere else.
And he hadn’t come back.
This book is one of the most heartbreaking books I’ve read and one of the most touching, special and thought provoking reads I’ve had in a long time.
Lastly, I just want to say if any of you ever, ever feel suicidal, please, please talk to someone. There is help, talk to me, talk to your friends, your family, your teachers. I know it gets hard and sometimes, you just want to give up, trust me I understand that. I’ve been there, I’m just coming from there, and it’s not nice. But please, there are people who love you, people who want to see your smile, feel your warmth, hear your laugh – there is hope, even if it feels like there’s none.
Don’t search for the deep blue just yet, please. Not yet.