We launched the Zoella Book Club at work last week and it’s great to finally be able to discuss the titles. If you haven’t heard about the Zoella Book Club (where have you been?!) then make sure you take a look at the WHSmith blog to find out all about it and join in. Amidst all the excitement of the launch, it’s fantastic to see how many young people have been encouraged to pick up a book and give reading a go.
The first review title of the eight Young Adult titles chosen by Zoella is Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places. The story is told from the perspective of Theodore Finch and Violet Markey, two American High School students who meet by chance at the top the bell tower as they both consider jumping off to end their lives. Finch comes from a broken home and has been called Theodore ‘Freak’ at school for as long as he can remember. He is morbidly fascinated by death and often considers different methods of suicide but hides his problems and reinvents himself regularly to cope. Violet on the other hand was the popular girl at school with everything going for her, up until a she was involved in a horrific car crash which killed her sister. As a result, she blames herself for what happened and gives up on life.
An unlikely pair, their shared experience on the bell tower brings Finch and Violet together and they embark on a school project to wander Indiana. During their adventures they get to know each other’s quirky ways and grow closer. Ironically, Violet learns to live again from Finch, the boy who wants to die. He brightens up her life day by day, encouraging her to take pleasure in it, whilst his gradually gets darker. Because of this, there is a constant underlying feeling of uneasiness that makes you want to stop reading, but for some reason or another, you can’t.
Both Finch and Violet are very likeable, real characters with distinctive voices and their emotional journey together is captivating. Finch functions at 100mph and it’s a struggle to maintain his pace, keeping both Violet and us on our toes. Jennifer Niven poignantly describes his bipolar disorder as periods of Awake and Asleep, which I’m sure resonates with anyone who suffers from mental illness. Finch’s voice highlights the stigma surrounding mental health by pointing out that people are much more sympathetic towards pain when they can physically see it. Jennifer Niven brings another dimension to the YA genre by creating awareness of mental health in such a transparent and thought-provoking way. All The Bright Places will hopefully help anyone who is suffering in silence to seek help.
Finch and Violet’s physical adventure together is equally as enchanting. Each time they discover a new place of interest, it’s accompanied by a wonderfully atmospheric description. As we follow Violet and Finch on their wanderings and in-between, we aren’t presented with melodramatic moments to keep us hooked, but instead a narrative that flows organically, allowing us to experience and feel every emotion there is.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot in case I spoil it but I will say that it’s a story that will stay with you forever. Just remember that even on the darkest of days, in the words of Finch, ‘you are all the colours in one, at full brightness.’