Ashana Lian's Fantasy Lab



Fantasy and Fantasy Writing from every angle: fantasy and sci-fi novels, films, artwork, superhero cartoons, children's and YA books, manga, anime, video games and comics. Put the microscope on 'Geek Culture'.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

YA Review: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven & It's Incredible Similarities to The Fault In Our Stars


Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Penguin
Published: 2015
Genre: Young-Adult Contemporary (non-fantasy.)

Blurb:
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.

Just a reminder, my reviews are not spoiler-free.


I wouldn’t normally write about this on my blog, but I thought it was important because I’ve previously mentioned on this blog that I have had... some... problems. Mentally.

This book was very very good. The characters were likeable, the beginning was strong and the ending was poignant. You gather from the blurb that one of the protagonists is suicidal (Theodore Finch) and the other suffers from what I think is post traumatic stress disorder following her sister’s death (Violet Markey).

The beginning was strong and hooked me immediately. Finch was definitely my favourite narrator! I liked pretty much all the characters, even though Violet’s old friends felt very... cliche-esque! (Heh) Niven did a incredible job of making me empathise with both Violet and Finch, without making them sound whiney or overly dramatic. They felt like real people with real problems, which was where the strength of this book came from. It felt as though it could be happening to anyone, anywhere - actually, I have several friend going through some of the issues in this book.

I got a bit bored towards the middle and to be honest, even though Violet's depression made you wanna cut her some slack, it was still very hard to see why Theodore was so eager to be friends with her. Finch, despite his problems, was likeable. Violet, even with her problems, didn't have a huge deal that seemed very alluring to me. She was so dull and shut-off, it was hard to see what Finch saw - then again, maybe he just saw an escape from his own problems and as the story progressed she became something more.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear at the end – not because of the ending but because of Finch's unravelling that led up to it. I recognised many of his thoughts and emotions of ones I've had before, and lately I have already been feeling quite low and miserable, so it really was awful to kind of... reminisce the stages leading up to suicidal feelings. All The Bright Places helped to illustrate that it’s not just terrible circumstances in somebodys life that provokes such awful thoughts. I don't think it’s trying to escape the present. What starts it off is when you don't see the point of waiting for a future that has no prospects.

When I have those feelings, its when a very low point in my life keeps recurring. It’s not the things itself that makes me think, ‘What’s the point?’ – it’s the mere thought that the rest of my life might be exactly like this. It’s debilitating. There was one part of the book when Finch realises he's been staring out of a window and thinks 'How long was I doing that?' That part creeped me out because I've realised I do that a lot when I'm on a downward spiral. It's like losing touch with reality and then time itself does something weird.

But anyway.

It really is a great book and the hype is justified. You’re hearing that officially from moi. =] It’s not normally the sort of book I would pick up but I'm glad I did.  For all my London readers – Jennifer Niven will be at Waterstones Piccadilly promoting this book on the 25th March. I hope you go and support the book and then come back and tell me all about it c: It’s the one and only time I give you permission to spam this post, LOL! Originally I was going to go, which I why I bumped this book up my TBR pile, but it’s brought out such raw feelings in me I no longer have the heart.


Verdict:  ****
(4 Sha's.)



10 Uncanny similarities between All The Bright Places and The Fault In Our Stars

(There will be spoilers e_e )

1. In TFIOS, both Augustus and Hazel have a physical illness. In ATBP, Violet and Finch have a mental illness.

2. All of the protagonists' names relate to nature – Waters, Hazel, Finch, Violet.

3. Both Hazel and Violet have parents who are caring but walk on eggshells.

4. In TFIOS and ATBP, Green and Niven set it up that the boyfriend is the charismatic one who therefore casts the illusion of confidence and strength. In both, the boyfriend dies first.

5. In TFIOS, Augustus’s condition worsens dramatically towards the end of his life, and Hazel notices how awful he looks despite still loving him. In ATBP, Finch’s mental state unravels towards the end of his life, and Violet notices the change in his behaviour and the frequency of his disappearances, and is angry about it, despite still loving him.

6. In both TFIOS and ATBP funerals, Hazel and Violet feel that no-one truly understood Augustus/Theodore and there is a sense in both books that funerals are a sort of facade.

7. Protagonist virgins lose their virginity in both books. (Had To Be Noted.)

8. The person who was dead before the story began – TFIOS it’s Augustus previous girlfriend, in ATBP it’s Violet’s sister – was out made out to be a saint. In fact, both dead girls were not particularly nice people.

9. Both Theodore and Augustus ‘speak’ to their girlfriends from beyond the grave (I don’t know why these books never touch on the grief of a sudden death with no damn paper trail (then again, probably not a good idea to traumatise your teenage readers.)) , Augustus via a posthumous letter, Theodore with the final wandering.

10. Both TFIOS and ATBP shatter the stereotypical image we have of those with physical or mental illnesses. Also both have teen protagonists... maybe suggesting that it's in the teenage years that we form these misconceptions, hence aiming the books towards teenagers.


I prefer Hazel over Violet as a protagonist (also, witticisms in TFIOS were very amusing) but if a single character stole the show, it was Theodore Finch. He was an absolute marvel as a character and as a love interest for Violet - which made his passing just so tragic. It's ironic he thought so lowly of himself when I think so highly of him.


Ashana Lian .

P.S. I’ve finally started reading Vicious! It’s is BRILLIANT so far. =D

P.P.S. Happy St. Patrick's Day! (I love Google gifs, they - are -so - CUTE.)


Have you read All The Bright Places? Do you read books on coping with death and mental illnesses, or do you stay away from books that'll make you sad (like me (usually))?

6 comments:

  1. I've heard a ton of good things about All the Bright Places, and the general idea sounds interesting to me. I usually don't like reading realistic fiction (because it is so unrealistic) but in this case I may have to make an exception, just because everyone has said so much about it. Addressing issues like this in books is incredibly important, and knowing friends who have struggled with the same issues or getting notes home from school that someone killed themselves over the weekend are like a slap in the face to me. It's horrible. But it's also truth, and books need to tell the truth so that when someone is hurting we aren't in the dark.

    So... maybe I'll read it. I don't liiiiike sad books but it's important soooo I will put it on the back burner and think about it when I am done reading my current book (a funny book, as it so happens, about camping).

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    Replies
    1. I don't like sad books either =( If I know a book is going to be sad I start backing away! But I read this because the issues in the book are issues I personally struggle with. Not to mention that I agree these issues need to be addressed. Plus it had such huge recommendations =D

      Thanks for commenting, Heather. If you read, I do hope you like it.

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  2. I read this book in January, and it hit me really hard because I've struggled a lot of what Finch suffered in the book. It's probably my favorite book so far this year. I haven't read TFIOS, but I've heard that the two have some similarities.

    Precious @ Clockwork Desires

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    Replies
    1. =( I'm so sorry to hear it. It always difficult to know what to say when you come across somebody else with similar struggles. I hope things begin to look up for you. =] Yeah, I was surprised by how alike ATBP and TFIOS are when you think about it. But on the surface, I actually wouldn't say they're all that similar.

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  3. Brilliant review. I absolutely loved this book. It got to me too when I read it, especially because it made me realise so much about myself during a time where I was in denial about how bad I was. I went to the event and it was amazing, Niven is such a wonderful person. I found the story sadder because it was based on a boy she was in love with, who she dated, who had bipolar disorder and ended up killing himself. That clearly still really affects her, you can tell whenever she talks about it. It added so much more to the story for me. I LOVE FINCH, that guy definitely steals the show.

    Stay strong!!! *hugs*

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    1. HI CHARNELL! I'm finally back o_O I went AWOL for way too long. XD

      Oh yeah, I saw your tweet! Glad you liked the event, though it's absolutely awful that the premise of the book came from real-life events. I think that was in the Afterword of the book as well. What do you even say in response to something like that? It's insane how many people suffer and yet nobody knows how to deal with it. No-one knows what to do and nobody seems to want to talk about it either - especially those who suffer, for the fear of their words being misconstrued. A lot of people just turn their back. That in itself is depressing.
      Thanks Charnell, doing my best. <3

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