MK’s Book Reviews: All The Bright Places

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Apologies for the longer-than-expected hiatus! It’s been quite the busy week and a half. Changes are coming my way. Which is terrifying, but good. I hope. More on that later.

Today I want to talk about the reason I bawled myself to sleep last night. Unsurprisingly, it was because of a book.

You may have heard of this book; it’s been all over the internets lately. It’s even going to be a movie. So we can all go bawl in public. Woohoo.

Is this book worth the hype?

Absolutely.

The summary, from Goodreads:

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.

I have to admit, I wasn’t taken in right away. The beginning of the book actually felt rather contrived–the suicidal meet-cute in the bell tower. I’m not even going to quote it here, because it didn’t grip me. What did grip me was the voice of Theodore Finch.

The problem with people is they forget that most of the time it’s the small things that count. Everyone’s so busy waiting in the Waiting Place. If we stopped to remember that there’s such a thing as the Purina Tower and a view like this, we’d all be happier.

It took me a little longer to come around to Violet. It usually takes me a little while to come around to the “popular” girls. I prefer the misfits. Violet’s sort of become one, after the death of her sister, but I would have preferred it if she were weirder. However, she does say stuff like this:

I reach for my laptop. In the days Before, I would have written something–a short story or a blog post or just random thoughts. I would have written till it was out of me and on the page.

I liked Finch and Violet’s relationship because it was the slow-burn kind. There’s no love at first sight, there’s Violet’s very real reservations and embarrassment about Finch’s weirdness, especially in public. Her reluctance to hang out with him also feels very real. As does the way he falls for her.

I take a good long look at her. I know life well enough to know you can’t count on things staying around or standing still, no matter how much you want them to. You can’t stop people from dying. You can’t stop them from going away. You can’t stop yourself from going away either. I know myself well enough to know that no one else can keep you awake or keep you from sleeping. That’s all on me too. But man, I like this girl.

There are so many quotable lines in this book that my copy now looks like this (and my Tumblr will be slowly filled with them all).

Which is why it pays to pretend you’re just like everyone else, even if you’ve always known you’re different. It’s your own fault, I told myself then–my fault I can’t be normal, my fault I can’t be like the others. It’s your own fault, I tell myself now.

Again I ask, where was this book when I was in high school? If I’d been reading stuff like this instead of the stuff I was reading back in the late ’90s, perhaps I would have felt less alone.

For once, I don’t want to be anyone but Theodore Finch, the boy she sees. He understands what it is to be elegant and euphoric and a hundred different people, most of them flawed and stupid, part asshole, part screwup, part freak, a boy who wants to be easy for the folks around him so that he doesn’t worry them and, most of all, easy for himself. A boy who belongs–here in the world, here in his own skin. He is exactly who I want to be and what I want my epitaph to say: The Boy Violet Markey Loves.

I think mental illness is really misunderstood. Especially the suicidal kind. Until recently, I had a tendency to look down on suicidal people. After all, I would think, I’ve gone through some pretty miserable spats in my life–most of them in high school–and I made it through. All you have to do is hold on. But I know now it’s not that simple.

The fact is, I was sick, but not in an easily explained flu kind of way. It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other recognizable disease just to make it simple for me and also for them.

Then there was the ending. I was not prepared for it. No spoilers. Just sobbing.

If anybody could have saved me it would have been you.

Just go read this book.

Photo found here

6 thoughts on “MK’s Book Reviews: All The Bright Places

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