{Book Review} All the Bright Places

{Book Review} All the Bright PlacesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Published by Random House Children's Books on January 6th 2015
Genres: Death & Dying, Depression & Mental Illness, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Source: Purchased
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five-stars

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning! 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. This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

My thoughts: Mental illness has such a terrible stigma in our society; for some reason we look at a disease of the body (i.e. cancer) very differently than a disease of the brain. The more I learn and read about it the more frustrated I become because it is so hard for people to get the help they so desperately need. Whether they are too afraid to reach out or their illness is ignored, this happens far too often in our society. Until mental illness touches your life it is extremely difficult to not only understand its effects on the person suffering, but also its effect on all the people close to them. All the Bright Places opens our eyes and hearts to two broken young adults, Finch and Violet. Finch, determined to become Violet’s savior, through a class assignment where they have to visit the “wondrous sights” of Indiana.

“Everyone around you is going to give you a gentle push now and then, but never hard enough because they don’t want to upset Poor Violet. You need shoving, not pushing. You need to jump back on that camel. Otherwise you’re going to stay up on the ledge you’ve made for yourself.”

As Finch fights to bring Violet out of her dark depression we discover that Finch’s mental illness goes much deeper, but their friendship and relationship grows even as Violet’s parents forbid her from seeing him.

“You are all the colors in one, at full brightness.”

What happens next can only be described as heart wrenching. I kept turning the pages hoping beyond hope that what I thought was going to happen didn’t.

I absolutely love books that have scavenger hunts or road trips, i.e. Paper Towns, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, Let’s Go Places, The Disenchantments and this is one going to the top of that list. All the Bright Places is a beautiful story, albeit extremely sad, and I absolutely adore Jennifer Niven’s writing.  I found that she captured the lives of two young adults very accurately. It took me awhile to figure out what Finch was suffering from, but I think that only highlights the difficulties of diagnosing mental illness.

“That’s just his thing. It’s what he does.”

All the Bright Places is so important because it underscores the issues surrounding mental illness especially in young adults and hopefully brings an awareness to the dire consequences. I knew after about two chapters that this was going to be a tear jerker and I finished the book with tears streaming down my face.

five-stars

{Book Review} Willow

{Book Review} WillowWillow by Julia Hoban
Published by Dial Books on 2009
Genres: Death & Dying, Depression & Mental Illness, Family, Siblings, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 329
Source: Purchased
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four-stars

Seven months ago, on a rainy March night, sixteen year- old Willow?s parents died in a horrible car accident. Willow was driving. Now her older brother barely speaks to her, her new classmates know her as the killer orphan girl, and Willow is blocking the pain by secretly cutting herself. But when one boy ?one sensitive, soulful boy?discovers Willow?s secret, it sparks an intense relationship that turns the ?safe? world Willow has created for herself upside down. Told in an extraordinary fresh voice, Willow is an unforgettable novel about one girl?s struggle to cope with tragedy, and one boy?s refusal to give up on her.

My thoughts: This premise of this book is intense. I cannot even imagine the emotional turmoil Willow must have felt dealing not only the loss of both parents, but most importantly knowing that she was the cause of that loss. Instead of reaching out for help, Willow turns inward and to cutting which releases her emotional pain through physical pain.

“She looks down at her stomach, searching to find a likely place, and makes the first cut, waiting for the moment when the pain of the razor erases everything else.” p. 182

“I’ve taught myself, I’ve trained myself, not to feel anything except physical pain. I’m completely in control of that.” p.222

I never understood the concept of cutting and how someone could do that to themselves, but Hoban created a character that I sympathized with, I felt her pain and suffering and understood her need to cut.

I truly admired Guy. I think it’s extremely unusual and shows great character for a teenager to feel a responsibility towards the well being of someone they don’t know but to reach out to try to stop their destruction.

“But I can’t leave you like this! You can’t put me in this position!”

I haven’t put you in any position,” Willow says coldly. She quickens her steps. They’ve almost reached the park now.

“Yes you have,” Guy says stubbornly. “I can’t just forget about this. What if you –”

“I told you I’m not going to kill myself.”

“Is that supposed to make it all right?” p.71

Although Guy doesn’t truly understand her need to cut, his steadfast friendship becomes Willow’s savior.

As their relationship develops and Willow takes tentative steps towards friendship and trust Willow begins to heal. Communication is the key to healing and by shutting out her friends and family her self destruction was inevitable, but by learning to open up and share her feelings true healing begins.

four-stars