review: all the bright places

I AM SO UPSET. BUT IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE. WHERE DO I EVEN START?! HOW DO I WORDS??!

I don’t think that this book should be compared to TFIOS or Eleanor & Park , especially not E&P, (which I didn’t enjoy at all) because it stands on its own.

I am not a crier. Call me heartless, but I didn’t turn on the waterworks when I read TFIOS.

But this. THIS. destroyed. me.

I fell in love with Finch from the very first page. He embraced his nerdiness in a way I admired, a way I never could claim my own outside of my blogging/bookstagram life. He’s quirky, sarcastic, different. His voice was powerfully eye-opening, and I fell so hard for his quotable words. I understood why he felt the need to be Awake, and to have someone or something to keep him Awake.

Finch finds Violet while both their lives are teetering over the ledge- quite literally, in the sense that they meet at the top of the school bell tower, both contemplating death from falling from a great height.

But for Violet, the height isn’t just physical. She struggles with falling out of touch with herself after the accident that took her sister Eleanor. She falls from social grace when she stays around Theodore “Freak,” after their initial meeting. But let me just say, her character development is ASTOUNDING! I loved watching how slowly, but surely, she pieced herself back together, with Finch’s help.

The only problem I had with the book was the fact that the adults seemed so flimsy and paper cut. They didn’t feel realistic enough. They were just there for the sake of being there because teenagers obviously need parents.

I’ve noticed that the primary reason behind the negative reviews is that the author is accused of portraying mental illness as some kind of cute quirk. But it’s not. I agree, mental illnesses should never be shown as ‘cute,’ but in this case, I think Finch’s quirkiness came from his innate personality rather than his mental illness. His struggle with bipolar disorder and depression doesn’t define him as a person, and it certainly doesn’t create the way he thinks. Rather, his illness controls how intensely he feels, as seen with his self-contained anger at Roamer, then the release of that anger packed into a hostile punch in Roamer’s face that led to Finch’s own expulsion. But for all the deep, why-don’t-you-just-think-on-this-for-a-moment-ultraviolet-remarkey-able quotes, his mental illness was not speaking for him. He expressed himself through his personality, NOT his depression and disorder.

And that, my friends, is EXACTLY what he meant by not being defined by his diagnosis.

“Listen, I’m the freak. I’m the weirdo. I’m the troublemaker. I start fights. I let people down. Don’t make Finch mad, whatever you do. Oh, there he goes again, in one of his moods. Moody Finch. Angry Finch. Unpredictable Finch. Crazy Finch. But I’m not a compilation of symptoms. Not a casualty of shitty parents and an even shittier chemical makeup. Not a problem. Not a diagnosis. Not an illness. Not something to be rescued. I’m a person.”

*SPOILER AHEAD DO NOT KEEP READING IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE RUINED*

It wasn’t the ending itself that ended my heartbeat and turned on the faucets I didn’t know I had in my eyes. It was the fact that the story was so heartbreakingly true and real. The pain, the exhaustion, the feelings of helplessness, I felt it all. Finch succeeded in saving Violet, mentally and physically, and yet she couldn’t save him from taking his life at the Blue Hole, where they had their first ‘date.’ It broke me when Violet wondered to herself, “Was I not enough?”  Ultimately, Violet gave Finch a temporary reason to stay Awake, but it wasn’t quite enough to lull him away from choosing to be Asleep.

But in dying young, Finch is immortalized in the stories of his Indiana town, in Violet’s mind, and in the spirit of the Blue Hole. His death reminds me, just a little, of a poem by A.E. Housman:

To an Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

This book is tough on the heart, but delicate with the subject. It sums itself up easily:
“Sometimes there’s beauty in the tough words—it’s all in how you read them.”

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