A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that All the Bright Places is the young-adult debut of the author of the Velva Jean series, and suicide is the central theme. The message is ultimately hopeful, but the path to finding hope is heartbreaking, and readers should keep a hankie close by. High school seniors wrestle with complex issues, mostly stemming from protagonist Finch's constant thinking about suicide, including the death of a loved one; mental illness; committing suicide and losing someone to it; abuse; and adult attitudes toward drinking, sex, and smoking. Lots of strong language includes frequent use of "a--hole" and "s--t," and a wide variety of other strong language is used once or twice each. Older teens and young adults smoke. Kissing is mentioned a dozen times or so, and making out with hands under shirts is briefly described once or twice. Seventeen-year-olds have sex a couple of times, but it's not described. Some details about different methods of suicide are explored, mostly by weighing the pros and cons of each. The author's note provides helpful websites about suicide, mental illness, bullying, and more.
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What's the story?
Violet and Finch meet six stories up, on the ledge of their school's bell tower. They couldn't be more different: She's popular, with a bright future at a top college; he's an outsider labeled a "freak." When they partner up on a geography project to explore their home state of Indiana, they begin to learn what drove each of them up and out onto that ledge and soon fall in love. Finch starts to bring Violet out of the grief she's been wrapped in for the past year, and with Violet Finch can truly be himself. Can Finch and Violet help each other to stay in this "messed-up world"?
Is it any good?
ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES is a heartbreakingly vivid story that ultimately conveys hope while remaining true to the characters. Author Jennifer Niven's believable, relatable voices alternate between high school seniors Finch and Violet, but it's Finch's voice that really drives the novel. Engrossing and compelling, like watching a train wreck, Finch's authenticity and vulnerability keep the pages turning and the reader rooting for him to make his way through this world. Violet's voice is equally realistic and believable, and teens will really relate to her struggles to emerge from grief even if they haven't experienced grief themselves.
Niven raises a lot of questions about life, death, suicide, mental illness, physical and emotional abuse, and how we stigmatize those who suffer from pain we can't see. She doesn't spoon-feed any answers, but these issues are things we all think about from time to time, and this novel provides a visceral, beautiful way to start a crucial discussion.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about suicide and mental illness. Where can you turn for help? What can you do if you think someone you know is serious about it?
Finch wishes mental illness was seen as the same as a physical illness. Do you think it can be? Why is it such a stigma in our society?
Why do you think the author switches point of view between Finch and Violet? Did both narrators seem realistic to you? Did you like one better than the other? Why?
- Author: Jennifer Niven
- Illustrator: Sarah Watts
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Friendship, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
- Publication date: January 6, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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