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  • Writer's picture Kathy Cassel

Book Review: All the Bright Places

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Review: All the Bright Places

This is my review, my own thoughts. You don't have to agree with me or my opinions.

All the Bright Places

by Jennifer Niven

The characters rise off the page and demand to be heard and understood- Me :)

An unusual but effective setting, the book begins on the ledge of the bell tower at school where both Theodore Finch and Violet Markey are at. Six stories above the school, Violet is frozen by fear, and “Finch the freak” talks her down. Because Violets’ reputation as a popular cheerleader, Finch goes along with the students’ false belief that Violet talked him out of jumping, and she becomes a hero.

This incident in the tower begins a friendship between two unforgettable characters, one plagued by darkness and mental health issues and the other distraught over the death of her sister in a car accident on their way home from a party a year before.

Finch the idea of a school project of wandering around Indiana and becoming familiar with different tourist attractions to a teacher and then quickly claims Violet as his partner. As they visit different tourist spots, Violet begins to see Indiana through Finch’s eyes. Everything becomes exciting and new. As the project continues, Violet slowly overcomes her fears and rides in a car for the first time since the accident that claims her sister life. She later drives.

While Violet slowly heals from her grief, Theodore wrestles with deep and dark thoughts. When he disappears, Violet finds herself following clues both to where he is and what is going on with him. Although the ending is not happy, it is realistic and satisfying.

The author draws from her own life experiences of having lost people to suicide to write this book, and this gives the story authenticity. She has insight into how teens think and how mental health issues effect a teen. The characters rise off the page and demand to be heard and understood.

This book made me:

  • Miss Indiana where I lived for 26 years.

  • Wonder if the places mentioned in the book were real.

  • Wish that we knew more about mental health issues and how to help the people plagued by them.

  • Think of someone I knew who committed suicide last year.

  • Want to explore more places in our state (Florida), which has been something we always try to do. When we travel, we make it as much about the journey as the destination.

The downside:

The values held by the main characters are those held by many teens in the public school. Theodore uses a lot of cuss words including the “F-word,” and he is known for having had sex with many girls in the past. During the book Violet loses her virginity to him.

At one point the school counselor mentioned the possibility of bipolar disorder, but it doesn’t seem that anyone made an attempt to figure out if this is what Theodore suffered from or get him on medication.

Although I believe in God and his power to heal, give hope and help, I think that medical intervention is also needed with mental health issues.


It is definitely a book worth reading, but you will encounter values contrary to evangelical values. If you are easily offended or prefer to avoid that, don’t read the book.

The book does however offer a realistic look at the lives of teens dealing with tough things. The sad thing is that Theodore and Violet do not seem to hold any true belief in God that offers them comfort or hope, although they do visit churches.

I listened to this book on CD while doing some projects, so it is possible that I missed some things.

The book has won the following awards:

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2015 A Miami Herald Best Books for Children 2015 GoodReads Choice Awards 2015 Young Adult Fiction Category Winner A TIME Top Young Adult Book of 2015 A NPR 2015 Guide to Great Reads Book

Here are a couple of comments the author herself wrote on her web page:

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might die, but every day he also searches for—and manages to find—something to keep him here, and alive, and awake.

This is a heart-wrenching, unflinching story of love shared, life lived, and two teens who find one another while standing on the edge.

The author offers a list of ten books that will save your life. I'd love to see a similar list of Christian books.

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