jennifer niven, realism, young adult

Jennifer Niven: All The Bright Places – review

Author: Jennifer Niven
Publish Date: 6 January 2015
Genre: Realism
Audience: Young adult

3.5 stars

(N.B. This book deals with heavy and potentially upsetting issues such as suicide and mental health issues)


‘All The Bright Places’ is the first book I have chosen to read from the Zoella Book Club list, and I was thoroughly excited to read it having heard incredibly good reviews. Unfortunately, I am left feeling rather confused about whether I really enjoyed this novel or not.

First of all, something that vexed me throughout this read was the portrayal of the two main characters Violet and Finch. Their personal stories and background were engaging and relatable, but they were implemented into your stereotypical, ‘quirky’ teenagers. For example, they went on spontaneous road trips at 3am, and their lives revolved around quoting dead poets such as Virginia Woolf. Thus, it made it very hard to develop a deep connection with the protagonists.

Unfortunately, this issue managed to dictate my whole opinion on the book, seeing as the plot is nearly dominated by these two characters as they travel around Indiana for a school project (e.g. the impulsive road trips). In addition, the mental health issues are not romanticised as such, but they didn’t feel realistic or relatable – in fact, I would go as far as to say it was rather clichéd at times. This was extremely disappointing to see in a YA novel, particularly after having read the raw truth that is ‘Am I Normal Yet?’ by Holly Bourne.

Having said that, the last 100 pages or so did make me feel incredibly emotional, despite having a loose connection with the characters. This is most probably down to the superb writing style which features throughout the novel; it was engaging, and did make me want to read more. The ending was somewhat predictable, but it felt conclusive. Casting aside the ‘quirkiness’ of the situation, the clues and subsequent road trip felt fitting to the rest of the novel, and it was the first time I felt a serious connection towards both Violet and Finch.

Furthermore, I really liked that it was split into two narratives – seeing as Violet and Finch were the only two dominant characters in the novel, it was appropriate to be able to have first-person perspective from both. The subheadings on each chapter were also a really pleasant touch as it reflected their priorities in the given moment; for example, Violent goes from counting down the days to her graduation, to simply documenting the date once she is fully involved with Finch. And there is another praise in itself – the character development for Violet was outstanding as she is broken and mended time and time again,  with what felt like a satisfying and realistic outcome for her character.

In conclusion, I did enjoy ‘All The Bright Places’ to an extent – it was beautifully written with a conclusive ending and fulfilling character development. I was prepared to get over the lack of originality due to these factors, but unfortunately the ‘quirky’ characters and unrealistic teenage situations niggled me too much, preventing me from fully enjoying what is a very beautiful and promising novel.

Next read: ‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart



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