All the Bright Places review

It was difficult for me to choose which book to review for my very first blog post because I have read so many great books lately!  However, All the Bright Places stood out to me as the first one I should share because the setting is Indiana, which is where I happen to live.   Indiana may not strike you as all that interesting of a place to live.  I’m sure that I’ve had that same thought myself a time or two.   But author Jennifer Niven manages to creates intrigue in the obscure as she highlights some of the Hoosier state’s strange and little known attractions in this young adult novel.

all the bright places cover

Violet Markey and Theodore Finch meet one morning on the ledge of their high school clock tower.  Both of them sullen and depressed, it is unclear who saves whom that morning.  When they are are given a research project designed to inspire pride in their state, Theodore chooses Violet to be his partner.  Together, they set off to “Wander Indiana,” determined to find the most unusual and obscure attractions the state has to offer.  I’ll admit that this was the most interesting part of the novel for me.  I am old enough to remember the Indiana tourism commercials from the 1980’s that encouraged viewers to “Wander Indiana.” And that catchy jingle has not stopped running through my head since reading this book.  During my time with All the Bright Places, I found myself putting down my Kindle so that I could Google each of the attractions that Violet and Theodore visited.   I had never heard of, let alone visited, most of them.  The World’s Largest Ball of Paint, DIY backyard rollercoasters, houses shaped like birds’ nests, and the state’s highest elevation (spoiler alert here:  it’s just a hill) and several more are highlighted in this book.

Though all of these adventures may seem exciting, both Violet and Theodore are struggling.  In each other, they find strength and develop a strong and unlikely friendship.  All the Bright Places explores mental illness, a topic all too often shrouded in shame and secrecy.  However, I’m not sure this particular book does anything to dispel the myths of mental illness, nor does it encourage one to seek help for it.  And given the target audience, I feel the author may have really missed an opportunity here.  As a young adult, the author herself had an experience that seems parallel to Violet’s.  Perhaps, for her, this book was more of a catharsis, rather than an opportunity to educate.

I wanted to love this book.  I expected to love this book.  While it was a good read, I found myself more drawn into their adventures than to the characters themselves.  So much so, that I was inspired to “Wander Indiana” myself recently.  You can read about it here.  If you’ve read All the Bright Places, be sure to leave a comment below letting me know what you thought!  No spoilers for those who’ve yet to read it.

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