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All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven


Topics of Interest: romance, writing, English literature, music, geography, grief, suicide, mental illness

Curriculum Connections: English, Geography, Health and Physical Education

Gender: F/M; M/F

Age: 14+

Blurb: There’s a lookout tower in Dorset, Ontario, that owns me. It’s a hundred-foot tall steel structure that provides a beautiful view of the surrounding lakes. Or so I’ve been told. It’s one of those scenic towers with open steps. You know the kind: climbing it involves watching the safe, firm land you’ve abandoned fall away with each step up you take. My hands are sweating just thinking about it.

I’ve never made it higher than the third set of steps. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried about five times, but every attempt has ended the same way…with failure. It’s a deep-seeded fear that I just can’t seem to shake. And I’m okay with that. Tower-5; Me-zippo.

In Jennifer Niven’s novel All the Bright Places, Finch and Violet have no trouble getting to the top of the bell tower at their school. In fact, it’s the place they first meet. Finch climbed the tower as a death wish; Violet in a moment of overwhelming grief.

Talking each other off the ledge cements a bond between them: Violet (the pretty, popular girl) and Finch (the freak) partner up for a Geography assignment and begin “wandering” around Indiana in search of significant landmarks. Over time the bond created by a shared secret turns into one fused by a deeply emotional connection.

There’s more than one way to save a person: Finch gives Violet a reason to move forward; Violet quiets Finch’s mind…at least for a while.

But some scars run too deep and love can only do so much.

The ledge is always beckoning.

Flavour: “The thing I don’t say is: I want to stay alive. The reason I don’t say it is because, given the fat folder in front of him, he’d never believe it. And here’s something else he’d never believe—I’m fighting to be here in this shitty, messed-up world. Standing on the ledge of the bell tower isn’t about dying. It’s about having control.” (Finch 16)

“I am not perfect. I have secrets. I am messy. Not just my bedroom but me. No one likes messy. They like smiling Violet. I wonder what Ryan would do if he knew Finch was the one who talked me down and not the other way around. I wonder what any of them would do.” (Violet 48)

“I walk into my closet and shut the door. Inside, I try not to take up too much space or make any noise, because if I do, I may wake up the darkness, and I want the darkness to sleep. I’m careful when I breathe so as not to breathe too loudly. If I breathe too loudly, there’s no telling what the darkness will do to me or to Violet or to anyone I love.” (Finch 277)

“You make me love you,

And that could be the greatest thing my heart was ever fit to do….

You make me lovely, and it’s so lovely to be

               lovely to the one I love….” (Finch 375)

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