Hello and welcome to my second book review post of the day! If you have looked at both, then I salute you! :) This time, I have an epic rambling to be made on my 'N' as part of my A-Z Author Challenge, which is the infamous 'All the Bright Places' by Jennifer Niven.
Firstly...again, let's hail this cover!! :) How beautiful!?
There is so much I have to say about this book, because it took me through a very complex set of emotions, all in one night! (Yes, I finished it in pretty much one sitting...more on the 'pretty much' later!)
So, for anyone who doesn't know what this story is about (where have you been?!), Finch and Violet meet on top of a bell tower, both suffering with the struggles of life and feeling like the plummet from a bell tower could be their only escape. They become friends, then more than friends, and learn to live via each other. A beautiful, if not cliche storyline.
So first, the 'love story' aspect. I don't read too much YA, so I am not sure if this is a commonplace feeling for adults reading YA, but it did make me feel very old! Finch is not very socially adept, so his way to connect with Violet is via Facebook...he creates a Facebook account just to talk to her. It reminded me of those oh so happy days of exciting romance via social media: logging out and back into MSN messenger to make sure your crush realised you were online (no one can deny that they did that!), and the whole effort of trying to make your virtual self seem like the person your crush wants you to be. They quote novels to each other, which is cute but at the same time...pass me a bucket! I can't lie though, it became a bit like a guilty pleasure and I couldn't stop reading it! I loved their relationship! The dual narration meant that I grew to care about both characters a great deal as I could see exactly how they thought and felt - Niven's writing style can take credit for that! It also struck me as a great testament to the incredible impact that love can have on your mental state when you feel like that black cloud over your head is never going to go away. Finch and Violet gave each other hope, and a future to look forward to. Finch got Violet back into the car after she had been traumatised out of it, and Violet showed Finch how wonderful life can be when you experience great things with great people.
This brings me onto the problem I have with this book: the ending. I think that books that deal with mental illness, particularly those aimed at younger target audiences, for whom the subject is more difficult to talk about, have an incredibly important societal role to play. People suffering with mental illness, and those who care for sufferers turn to literature as a comfort: to read about someone else's problems and learn about ways to cope. Just like Violet and Finch represented hope to each other, so fiction and a happy ending can represent hope to people who are struggling. If somebody goes through a book feeling like they can completely relate to a character, and that character then has a happy ending, that can be incredibly powerful - like a sunshine through the rain cloud.
This is the issue I have with the ending...*potential spoiler alert here!*, where was the happy ending?! I get that Niven was trying to represent how hard-hitting and devastating mental illness can be, and in some ways I applaud her unflinching storyline. I am sure it hit home with a lot of people who cannot fully appreciate the gravity of mental illness if they have no direct contact with it, so from that perspective, it was a fantastic ending. However, for all those reading this book and loving the fact that Violet and Finch were helping each other, and feeling like they were getting better and could get through this darkness and into happily ever after, the ending was just so wrong! It broke my heart, and I am pretty sure will have shattered the hopes of many people! This is why I say I almost read it one sitting: once I was 50 pages from the end and realised what was going to happen, I just had no motivation to finish it, it was so disappointing!
So, in summary, a fantastically written book, a great read, right up until the last 50 pages, where if you're hoping for a happy ending, I suggest you stop and write your own!
I am sure lots of you reading this will have read this book...what do you think? Did Niven make the right choice with the ending? Let me know in the comments below!