Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

[WARNING: Definitely NOT a spoiler-free review]

And I sat here, blinking through my glasses, thinking to myself: "You must not screw this up." This book was so precious that I doubt if my words would ever be enough to express how great it was and how closely I hold it dear to my heart. This book deserves a special place in this blog, and before I let my feelings settle and wait for what feels like the perfect time to write a review, I opened my notes and started banging my fingers to the keyboards. Well, banging may be a bit overboard. But, yeah, on I typed - loudly, and a bit forcefully. The surge of emotions seeping through the ends of my fingers, translating them to words… sentences… paragraphs - to this: my thoughts. (Sorry The Beginning of Everything and sorry Red Queen, you two shall wait.)

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.
(via Goodreads)

Honestly speaking, after I flipped through the last page, I was a mess. I just want to embrace my knees, lie down, and sleep. I didn't cry, but there's this hollow, constricting feeling in my chest that may or may not suggest the beginning stages of crying. My mind's abuzz, and I just want to hug someone tight and sigh endlessly until the hollowness was gone. But I was at the office, in full-on business attire, at 9:00 in the morning, trying to put myself together because, obviously, this is never a perfect place to fall apart. I even got as far as the Author's Note and the lengthy Acknowledgements just for everything to settle. But it didn't.

I spent the nights reading it thinking about Dead Poet's Society, Catcher in the Rye, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Virginia Woolf, famous (and even the not-so-famous) last words, that book about suicide I've read years ago (Ang Paboritong Libro ni Hudas), Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Norwegian Wood and all those little things - swirling. The things I like and the things that I don't like thinking about - all came surging to the surface, there's no holding them down.

And as with Hold Still, Norwegian Wood, and all the special books (God knows how many) I've read that depicted mental illness so accurate it actually hurt, this was so spot on - not glossed over, but just a damn straight sketch of what it's like. I've explored this subject so hard, so deep in the past few years - reading many resource materials, spending hours browsing Wikipedia pages over and over that, at this time, its seed has already taken root in the innermost corners of my mind.

It was great - in an I-can't-put-it-down kind of way. It was, at times, gripping. And, at times, romantic. But most of the time, the book was downright depressing it was almost too difficult to read.

So many things happened in the past: most of it I don't exactly talk about… and some, so much time has passed, I finally got my head around it so it finally felt part of a bigger picture I've yet to see. It's not really news, since this blog, has been and still is, a witness to all of my undulating thoughts throughout the years (this and my diaries). I still suffer from recurring bouts of anxiety, and some days, it's just gray - but I always get back on my feet: too soon, too quickly. For me, it's just part of a cycle. It turns and it turns, and God knows when it would stop and where. I don't run trying to escape it, I just let it settle. And then, just like that, it would fade - slowly, but at least it dies.

But unfortunately, for some, that is not the case. The Settling suffocates and cripples them, and the Fading, a far-off dream threatening not to be realized. The bright, clear days were barely there.

And for some reason, there's a side of it I understand - the suicide, I mean. It's sad: people trying to off themselves just because they feel they have no choice and that no matter how much they run to escape it, they won't ever be fast enough.

I've read reviews that the book was excellent but it tends to put an emphasis to the two main characters too much, almost forgetting to flesh out the secondary characters. But for me, that's what we are at that stage: self-absorbed in our own pain, but not in an intentional, imposing way. We tend to amplify what we are experiencing ourselves, and, in the process, painting other's suffering dimmer than ours. But that doesn't mean the latter is truth.

It was sad, and, at times, it was funny. It was bittersweet in the truest sense of the word -- but it was lovely in every way. Theodore Finch and Violet Markey will forever live in my heart. You, Theodore Finch, is one awesome YA character that I'll find a hard time to forget. #sobsmessily

To that friend who recommended it to me too many times until I got around to read it, THANK YOU from the bottom of this beating Heart.

My Rating: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5 stars)

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