Sam Droke-Dickinson, co-owner of family owned and operated Aaron’s Books in Lititz, Pa., shares her enthusiasm for All the Bright Places, author Jennifer Niven’s first YA novel, which Knopf will publish in January.
I am a fan of realistic fiction, and am always looking for a book that not only captures day-to-day life of tweens and teens, but also has a story of hope and heart. All the Bright Places is just such a book.
The story is told through the eyes of Theodore Finch and Violet Markey, who meet one another at the top of their school’s bell tower. Violet climbs the tower to end her life: 10 months earlier she survived a car crash that took the life of her beloved older sister. Theodore doesn’t remember entering the tower – one of his many recent memory lapses. He saves Violet from jumping, but since he’s “the freak” at school (a label that he relishes at times), everyone assumes she saved him, and was not up there to kill herself. Violet becomes the town hero; Theodore ends up even more of an outcast.
Over the course of three months, as part of their senior year geography project, the two travel the back roads of Indiana to visit quirky roadside attractions, from Hoosier Hill, the tallest point in the state, to a one-person crank-operated rollercoaster built by a farmer on the side of his barn. As Theodore pulls Violet out of her regret for surviving the accident, Violet tries to pull him out of the darkness swallowing him up. Niven deftly balances the lightness of their budding romance with the bleakness they face confronting their past and others’ perceptions of them.
All the Bright Places focuses a light not only on teen depression, but also on bipolar disorder and how these labels in particular can affect teens. Niven concludes the book with an afterword about her own relationship to suicide, along with a list of resources for teens, parents, and teachers. This novel will rightfully take its place alongside Jay Asher’s wonderful Thirteen Reason Why and Impulse by Ellen Hopkins as a much-needed fictional resource for teens and the adults in their lives.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Knopf, $17.99 Jan. 2015 ISBN 978-0-385-75588-0