All The Bright Places: A Senior Must-Read

All The Bright Places: A Senior Must-Read

Purple sticky notes.

Filling more than half of the 378 pages, scribbled on in black ink, all the way from cover to cover. These are my notes, my bookmarks of inspiration that I found in this book.

Subconsciously I did this, never realizing until I was done with the novel that sticky notes themselves play a big role in the life of the main characters. They serve a purpose for them, too, but unlike mine, theirs hold the original pieces of influence that I marked within these pages.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven tells the story of two troubled seniors in high school. There’s Theodore Finch, who struggles each day to find reasons to live and is known at his school as Theodore Freak. Despite being obsessed with his own death, he somehow finds ways to keep himself awake and present in the world. Then there’s Violet Markey, who struggles with depression in the wake of the devastating car crash that took her sister’s life. She hasn’t been in a car in nine months, and bikes around her small Indiana town. She’s dropped out of everything that once made her happy and counts down the days until graduation, when she can leave and escape everything and maybe possibly start over.

When the two teens find themselves together on the top of the school’s bell tower, each maybe for the same reason, there’s an instant connection, and it becomes unclear who has saved whom. When Finch requests Violet to work on a history project that requires them to search for the natural wonders of their state, she’s forced out of her comfort zone and into a brand new world. Their exploration is what brings them together, and as it turns out, they’re not so different from each other after all.

As someone who has lost multiple family members in the past three years and also has many friends who struggle with depression, I felt a connection to both of these characters. The reality in which Jennifer Niven places Finch and Violet is not unlike the situation many teens go through on a regular basis. Senior year feels like it needs to be a time to find yourself and define yourself, and with college right around the corner, it’s nearly impossible to not do exactly that. Within these pages, I found comfort in knowing that Finch and Violet were both trying to figure out who exactly they’re supposed to be in an ever-changing world.

Unlike many other teen novels, this story felt more real. It felt like I knew these characters as well as I know my best friend. Their emotions were strongly tangible, displayed through words like “the dark, slow-churning vortex that’s always there, in me and around me, to some degree” and “I feel terrified but free.” Violet reinforced my love of writing and reading, and showed me that we all work best when we are truly in our happy place. Finch taught me to value moments and memories, and to cherish the small things.

A lot of the words Violet and Finch exchange are what made me love this book so much, and it’s through some of these lines that I draw a lot of my inspiration:

“The thing I realize is, that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.”
“The problem with people is they forget that most of the time it’s the small things that count.”
“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”
“I learned that there is good in this world, if you look hard enough for it. I learned that not everyone is disappointing, including me, and that a 1,257 foot bump in the ground can feel higher than a bell tower if you’re standing next to the right person.”

Filled with raw emotion and heart-wrenching experiences about friendship, love, and just simply living, All The Bright Places is a novel that I highly recommend and believe that every high school senior should take the time to read. If not the entire book, then at least the first few chapters. This book meant something to me, and, in the words of Theodore Finch, “The great thing about this life of ours is that you can be someone different to everybody.”

I hope this book will mean something different to you.