Sunday, October 4, 2015

There was a boy who lived in a closet... And it wasn't Harry Potter

Jennifer Niven's breakout young adult novel All the Bright Places raises quite a few discussions on mental health, depression, anxiety, and suicide--and that's just the start.

All the Bright Places was recommended to me by a friend of mine who works at DePauw University's bookstore.  She said that since I liked The Fault in Our Stars, I would absolutely adore Niven's novel.  Though I absolutely loved this book, I didn't find that many similarities between it and John Green's book.  Honestly, the only similarity I found was that both included death.

The story starts out with Theodore Finch standing on the sixth story of the school's bell tower.  Arms extended, feet curling the edges of the railing, he excitedly welcomes his spectators to his death.  But then he sees Violet Markey, also atop the bell tower and possibly planning her death as well.  Violet is looking for any reason to live, while Finch (bipolar and obsessed with death) can't find a reason not to die.  Together, they embark on a journey to find all of the "bright places" that Indiana has to offer (for a school project, of course)--finding scenes such as a vacant lot of book-mobiles and a man who builds roller coasters in his backyard.  The story delves into the harsh reality that it is a terrible feeling to love someone and not be able to help them.

Niven's book has just the right amount of everything you want in a young adult novel: from romance and adventure to heartbreak and bullying.  This book wasn't afraid to discuss mental illness, and for that I really respect Niven.  It's hard to write about something as real and harmful as depression, but it's also very important for teen readers to understand the effects that mental illness has.  Teens need to understand that they are not alone and that they do not have to feel the things they feel--and Niven does a beautiful job of portraying mental illness for what it is: parasitic and very, very destructive.

If you're looking for a young adult novel that isn't afraid to stray from the norm every now and then, check out Jennifer Niven's All the Bright Places.  You won't be disappointed.

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