“I. Am. In. Pieces.”
Official Summary: (goodreads.com)
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.
My thoughts: This book will break your heart. In a good way. But also a broken way. Finch manages to take a seat in your heart and then rip it to pieces, one word at a time. Violet is the broken girl who tries to save him after he saves her on the bell tower, and together they go searching for the perfect day. I honestly don’t even want to write about this book, because the raw emotion just made it one of those books that you want to keep to yourself, let it settle a bit before you discuss it. But Finch and Violet weave through this book with their unique voices, and even though it is predictable (I figured out the ending about halfway through the book) it’s one of those novels that you just keep hoping everything will turn out okay. But the reality of Finch’s mental illness, the elegant way in which his thoughts are given voice on the page, and the heartbreaking spiral of his manic depression catch your breath and maybe a little piece of me died inside. This book as been likened to The Fault in Our Stars or Eleanor and Park, but I see very little resemblance other than the superficial. While John Green’s characters battle physical illnesses, Niven’s Theodore Finch fights his own mind and, ultimately, falls off balance. If you’re going to equate All the Bright Places with The Fault in Our Stars, you may as well equate everyone with any kind of illness, mental or physical, as being the same. Just because a book is well written and uses quotes from literature between the characters does NOT make it the same as another book that does the same, especially when that literature is not the same. Finch is infinitely different from Augustus Waters, and Violet is infinitely different than Hazel. If you say different, I say you haven’t really read either of these books, or haven’t looked past the very top layer of what you see- a boy and girl, difficulty, tragedy. All the Bright Places is a book about choices when you feel like there is only one option, a book of love that can never last, a book about pain and loss and beauty in the middle of it all. Near the end, Finch writes: “The thing I realize is that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.” And Jennifer Niven has left us a painful, breathtakingly real book that gives us a little bit courage to fight like a boy called Finch and a girl named Violet.
What to Watch: (SPOILER ALERT)
As this is a contemporary teen romance, we find, as we usually do nowadays, that those in the romantic relationship end up having sex. There’s nothing graphic, but you know it’s happening, and it happens several times.
As for drugs and alcohol, there is some mention of both, and Finch is a smoker, although not all the time. Only when he’s British Finch or Bada** Finch does he smoke, even though he always has a pack of cigarettes with him.
Language is used frequently in this book, of all kinds, so that is something to watch out for when deciding whether to read (even though, really, it isn’t a constant barrage).
As for violence/disturbing images, (HUGE SPOILER) Finch thinks about killing himself a lot, and writes down what method he would use and why he didn’t. But eventually he does kill himself, and Violet finds the body in one of the places they go to wander. Finch also gets in several fights where he injures others, and his father is abusive, so one their once-weekly visits occasionally we read about that abuse.
I really loved this book, but I’m never going to read it again and put myself through that kind of emotional trauma. My applause to Ms. Niven, though- she’s written a real, emotional, gut-wrenching novel that will stay with readers for a long time. However, due to the nature of the book and events that transpire, as well as the detail about Finch’s descent into depression, I would recommend this for mature readers age 15 and up. This is not a book to be taken lightly, and it should not be read as a go-ahead for suicide even when things are looking up. If you or a friend have considered suicide or think you may have bipolar disorder or manic depression, please get help immediately from a responsible adult.
Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!