Representation Reads: All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

Violet Markey is in mourning. A year after her sister’s death, the pain of loss is still as raw as ever. She feels like falling asleep until the pain is over. Meanwhile, Theodore Finch is just waking from a metaphorical slumber – a mental hiatus from life and its many struggles. He is determined never to feel like that again, but staying awake forever isn’t easy.

When the two of them meet on a ledge on top of the school bell tower, a relationship is to form that will take the pair on a scavenger hunt across Indiana, and remind them that there are always bright places.

In our society, we have a tendency to tiptoe around the subject of mental illness, condemning sufferers of mental health issues to minimal representation in the media. Niven completely breaks from this, and we need more books like All the Bright Places – a novel which portrays both Bipolar Disorder and Depression openly, candidly, and tactfully. It is books like these that help to educate young people and reduce the stigma surrounding such issues.

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With depiction and understanding around mental health issues growing, it’s due to the candidness of books like this, allowing for wider acceptance and vital representation for young sufferers.

The split point of view is a stroke of genius, allowing for closer character development of the two protagonists and enabling the execution of the novel’s tragic conclusion.

All the Bright Places is reminiscent of a stunning mixture of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and John Green’s Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. However, it is indisputable that Niven’s style is entirely her own.

Violet and Theodore are refreshing and unique main characters. Theodore will steal and break your heart, a character with the ability to make you laugh and cry on the same page. Violet, on the other hand, is heartbreakingly brilliant, and throughout the book she blossoms as beautifully as her namesake flower.

Jennifer Niven captures with this book the turmoil of mental illness, the fragile beauty of love, and the unfathomable awfulness of loss. All the Bright Places will have readers hooked, but a disclaimer: this is not for the emotional amongst us. As a rather stoic bookworm, I can confirm that even the stony-hearted among us will be reduced to tears. But this novel with undoubtedly be treasured forever by those whose heart it touches.

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