All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is a young adult novel that plays out like most YA books in terms of romance. There’s a guy and a girl who fall for each other and create moments of romance you tend to find only within the pages of really good books. There’s an aspirational, sigh-as-you-read feeling because you want to be in Violet’s shoes through all the falling in love moments.
Violet and Theodore Finch are the book’s two anchors. Everyone else plays minor, close to nonexistent, roles in the book. They come in and out of Violet and Finch’s life without ever really truly seeing them for who they are. (In the end, this is one of the major downfalls for one of our main characters.)
Violet and Finch though they see each other. (No labels required.) They’re present in every single moment. Even when for most of the book they’re capable of living only for two days in the future because they’re using all their might trying to figure out how to not live in the past.
Without a doubt the reason All the Bright Places won us over isn’t because the relationship between the two main characters developed in an earth shattering, lovely way but because it depicts grief in an honest, relatable manner.
The reader meets Violet immediately after the death of her older sister. She’s lost and intent on keeping her sister alive by making herself a vehicle for this purpose. She’s wearing her sister’s glasses even though they make it hard for her to see.
With every scene Violet lives through, as a reader who has lost someone, you tend to relate. You’re with her in her fear of losing someone else, you understand why she’s holding on to a physical piece of her sister as a way to tangibly keep her sister present and man do you understand what must be going through her head every time someone tells her she can’t keep using her sister’s death as an excuse.
You’re also alongside her as she rediscovers who she is and finds a new normal she can live with.
Even though we focus on Violet, Theodore Finch is a character written to be loved. As loving as a male lead in any classic book; as endearing and flawed as any boy you come across in real life. No matter what version of Finch he presents, he’s always incredibly authentic, with peaks of vulnerability that remind you to be humbled when someone lets you in.
All the Bright Places will make you laugh and cry, but most of all it will make you feel. It delivers on the promise to make you feel less alone.