Thursday, 19 February 2015

All The Bright Places By Jennifer Niven

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.- Goodreads

I'm going to get a bit personal in this review because this was a very personal book for me. 3 years ago, I went through what could only be described as a depression. I was experiencing all the symptoms but I was too scared to voice it up to anyone. People could see that I was in distress. Believe me, they could see it. But no one ever thought to dig deeper. That year was the darkest and most horrible year of my life. I thought about killing myself constantly. I would make these plans and I would imagine my suicide and funeral. No one cried at them. I would cry myself to sleep and starve myself in school because I was too busy writing about my horrible life in my diary to eat. I threw myself into reading and into isolation.  I didn't want to be around anyone. Not that the people around me at that time were that great either. I was being emotionally bullied by not just my peers, but my family. I was scared  and alone. I fell into this deep dark hole and I couldn't crawl out.  It wasn't a formal diagnosis but I believe that I went through a depression that year.

The following year, I found myself in a much better environment. I could breathe again. I could see the light. Slowly, I started to get better. I pulled my head out of my books (I used to read really obsessively as an escape from people and life. I now read a lot but I read healthily). I started doing better in school and I made more friends. It took a long time but I survived the darkness. I survived the 'Asleep'. I woke up.

This book brought back a lot of the feelings from that year. And that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. It just made me empathise and love the characters even more. Because I felt like Finch understood what it was like to be so depressed that you couldn't function. I understood Violet's immense sadness and her desire to be better for her parents. I just felt so deeply for the for the characters. 

When I started the book, I thought it was so 'The Fault In Our Stars'. I was pretty annoyed to be honest. And then, about 30% into the book, out of nowhere, it suddenly got ridiculously amazing. Suddenly Violet and Finch became real and I found myself completely immersed in the story.

Towards the end, I actually found myself mentally pausing. I didn't want to read the next sentence but I also did. I didn't want to turn the page but I also did. In my head there was this steady mantra going, 'Nonononononononono'.  

When I finished the book, I was in tears. And I'm talking ugly tears that made my head hurt. I was physically hurting and I was incapable of well anything really. It hurt so badly. 

Many people compare this book to 'The Fault In Our Stars' and while the author is honoured by that, I feel like there is something very important that All The Bright Places has and that The Fault In Our Stars lacks. People always tell writers to write what they know. John Green's book was based off his imagination. All The Bright Places, as was mentioned in the author's note, was based off a real life experience of hers. I don't want to give away spoilers here so I won't elaborate but Jennifer Niven's book just had that authenticity. You could just feel the emotions radiating from the pages.

This book was epic and already it is blowing up. Everyone is going crazy for it and Elle Fanning has been cast as Violet. I'm so happy for Jennifer because she is such a sweet and genuine human being and I couldn't be happier for her immense success. If you haven't read it yet, drop everything and go get a copy. It's so good and you won't regret it.

The author, Jennifer Niven, very kindly agreed to let me interview her for my blog so here are her answers to the questions I had. Take note that there might be some mild spoilers in the last two questions.

1) People often like liken your book to The Fault In Our Stars and Eleanor and Park. How do you feel about that? 

It’s an honor to have All the Bright Places compared to these two wonderful books, but at the same time I worry that it does all the books a disservice because each of them should really be able to stand on their own.

2) Are all the places that Violet and Finch wandered to real? 

All but one—I invented the bookmobile park. (Which I hope someone will create someday!)

3) Have you been to them? Have you left something behind too?

 I’ve been to some of the sites, but in April I’ll be in Indiana on my book tour and I’m hoping to see all of them then. I’d like to do a Finch and Violet tour of Indiana and leave something behind at each place.

4) Why the obsession with Virginia Woolf? Do you personally like her work?

 I’ve actually never been a fan of Virginia Woolf, but I came to appreciate her more while I was working on All the Bright Places. (I actually wrote a piece for The Guardian recently on how I came to quote Virginia Woolf in the book:

5) If you could have anyone in the world to play Violet and Finch, who would they be? I’m asking so I can get a better idea of how you saw them in your head as you were writing it. 

When I was writing the book, I always pictured Elle Fanning as Violet, and now she’s actually playing Violet in the movie version! (I’m so excited!!) For Finch, I pictured Nicholas Hoult. He’s got the same weird beauty and sex appeal as Finch, and is able to play both sensitive and sweet and frenetic and wild. (Sadly, I think he’s a bit too old now to play Finch in the film.)

6) You mentioned that you once lost a boy you loved to suicide. I’m so sorry to hear that. Did you get the idea and write the story based on your relationship with him or was it something else?

I got the idea to write the story from knowing and loving this boy years ago. I saw firsthand his struggle to be in the world, and the dramatic highs and lows he experienced on a daily basis.

7) What was the most interesting thing you learnt and person you got to meet during the research of this book? 

It actually happened after the book came out—I reconnected with the family of the boy I knew and lost, and it’s been really special to be in touch with them again.

8) Why was Mr Embryo so unfriendly and harsh on Finch? Why did you decide on that direction with a profession that is usually painted as being warm and loving? 

Unfortunately, the counselors at my high school were overworked and understaffed, and they could only do so much for their students. Not all counselors are like this, of course, but I know too many teens who have been overlooked or underserved by their own school counselors. That said, I actually thought Embryo did the best he could with Finch. He used tough love when dealing with Finch, and I really do think he cared. As he himself said, yes, he probably could have done more, but Finch was also very guarded and careful about how much he revealed to everyone, Embryo included.

9) Why exactly did Mrs Finch try to always distance herself from her children? Did she have a mental illness too or was she pulling away because of what Mr Finch did to her? 

Mrs. Finch is a very wounded person who is simply going through life as best she can. She is basically just showing up for life without actually engaging in it or with the people around her. Basically, she does the bare minimum she needs to get by. I see her as a woman who was very hurt by the man she loved and married, who is still reeling from that hurt, so much so that she is incapable of truly seeing, understanding, or taking care of her kids.

10) How did you manage to score a movie before this book was even published? (Congratulations on that by the way) 

Thank you! My wonderful film agent sent the book out early last spring, after we’d sold a number of the foreign rights. She knew the foreign rights sales so early on in the process and all the early buzz about the book would get the attention of Hollywood, and luckily she was right! 

11) Do you plan to be heavily involved in the movie making process?

 Yes! I actually just did an event yesterday with the producer and the director and Elle Fanning! They are all being so wonderful to involve me as much as possible.


12) What was it that finally drove Finch over the edge? Was it the expulsion? Because he seemed to be doing well until he got expelled. 

Like the boy I once knew, Finch suffered from bi-polar disorder, which meant that every day was a struggle for him. It wasn’t a matter of one event driving him over the edge. There were certainly multiple events that contributed, but more than that, it was Finch trying to stay Awake and not wanting the Long Drop to come back. He was tired of fighting, and he dreaded the Asleep—his word for the lows— which he knew would inevitably come.

13) How is it that he spent most of the novel fighting to stay alive for Violet but in the end, she wasn’t enough?

I hate to say it, but a person can’t be enough for another person to stay. This is something I learned firsthand from my experience knowing and loving this boy and others like him who struggled with depression, bi-polar disorder, and suicide. Finch loved Violet more than he loved anyone, but he was battling demons far bigger than that love. The thing is, Finch should not have died. There was help for him. Suicide should never be a solution. If only Finch had let people in and let them know what he was dealing with and realized that he’s not alone, that other people struggle with these same issues, he could have been saved.
My Rating: 5/5
P.S. Jennifer, I still really really want a signed copy
Purchase the books at The Book Depositary using my special link Here

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