All The Bright Places is the first book for young adults by Jennifer Niven, who has previously wrote fiction with an adult audience in mind. It follows Theodore Finch, a boy who everyone thinks is 'weird' and wants to kill himself, and Violet Markey, who is struggling with the loss of her sister seven months ago, who contemplates suicide on top of the school bell tower. When a teacher makes them do a project to write about two landmarks in their home state of Indiana, Theodore and Violet decide to check out many of the more unusual sites of their home state. Well, Theodore decides, and just kind of pulls Violet along for the ride.
Theodore has what I can only surmise is Kleine-Levin syndrome, where he can fall asleep for weeks at a time. This is a known disorder, however his sister tells the school that he's off with flu and his mother apparently doesn't know that her son is asleep for such a long period of time? I don't know any school that would believe someone having a four-week-long flu without checking into it. His father divorced and Theodore and his two sisters have Sunday Night Dinners every week with his father's new family. His father is also violent, and in some places I had to wonder if Theodore had picked up the trait.
Violet wanted to be a writer, and she has a blog she ran with her sister. However, after her sister's death, she hasn't written anything. I really wish it was as easy to get famous with a blog as authors seem to think it is. Violet is often accused of using her sister's death as an excuse. However, through her eyes you can see how much she is truly struggling with it, but also places where she isn't trying as much as she could be. Both leads go through a lot of character development over the course of the book. I must say, though, what kind of name is Germ for an online magazine? It just makes me think of nasty germs that give you illnesses.
One of the joys about seeing two points of view is that you can see two characters from different perspectives. In Theodore's narration, Violet can seem unnecessarily cold to a boy who just saved her life, but from her side, you can see her struggles to let him in and trust him. In Violet's POV, you can see her struggle to let him in and to live again after he sister's death, yet Theodore can come off as pushy. Overly pushy to a girl who's shown no apparent interest as of yet, pushing her past her comfort zone after her sister's death. I kept hoping someone would mention this. While it does make both characters flawed, I kept wondering if Theodore's flaws pushes him into the unlikable column for me. I changed my mind on him several times over the course of the book. However, he calls her Ultraviolet Remarkeyable. Tell me that's not the cutest thing you've ever heard? One of the things he did do that bothered me a lot was wait for her to come out of class, so he could walk her to her next one, before they were dating, even though she'd told him not to. Then, he guilt trips her over doing this. "Oh, do you just not want to be seen with the weird guy? Even after I saved you're life?" That's not a direct quote, I am paraphrasing here, but it does sum up his attitude.
One of the more interesting things about this book to me was that many of their landmarks are real places! There really is a guy named John Ivers who built two roller-coasters called Blue Flash and Blue Too in his backyard. There is a place for abandoned bookmobiles called The Bookmobile Park. And the Blue Hole in Prarieton is real, too! In fact, this book did something amazing - it made me want to visit Indiana!
I would recommend this book to people struggling with the loss of a family member, but I'd be more cautious with recommending to to people struggling with depression.