“Before I die I want to know a perfect day.”
Read in December 2019
This review will include spoilers.
Also, I don’t usually do trigger warnings, but I really feel like this one might be needed. TW: suicidal thoughts, self-harm, death, suicide, mental illness, car accident, loss, and grief.
All the Bright Places left me a weird feeling that lasted for at least a few days, it made me feel uneasy and kind of numb. I already know in advance how hard it will be for me to write a proper review and it’ll be definitely difficult to put words on those feelings. Let’s start with why I decided to read it in the first place. This book is one of those that have been on my TBR the longest, and for 2020 I challenged myself to read those which I added before 2016, which was the case for that one. Also, I knew this book was adapted into a movie and it is going to be released on Netflix in the next few weeks. You may already know this, but I prefer reading a book before watching the movie, therefore, here we are.
“The problem with people is they forget that most of the time it’s the small things that count.”
Theodore Finch is a teenager who is fascinated by death and regularly thinks about his mortality and about all the ways he could end his own life. He is living in an extremely unstable situation, with all the members of his family being are physically or morally abusive. It made me super sad to read about his mother’s negligence, his father’s violence, and I have to say that he didn’t have the family foundation he needed to get a good start in life. Theodore is always alone at school and he is often targeted by bullies, which doesn’t help with his gloom. It later comes to light that Theodore has bipolar disorder, so he was doomed to suffer shifts in mood and chronic depressive episodes.
Violet Markey, on the surface, is quite the opposite. She comes from a loving family, has stellar grades, is liked and appreciated by her schoolmates. She has many friends, some of them are those same bullies that harass Theodore Finch. However, Violet’s sister died in a car accident a year ago and Violet is overwhelmed with unbearable grief. Her whole life has been turned around, she stopped posting on their joint blog, all her college plans now seem pointless. She is waiting for graduation to finally be able to leave Indiana where everything reminds her of her sister.
“I have this feeling, like I’m waiting for something. But I have no idea what.”
Violet and Theodore first meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school. Both of them came up there for different reasons. For Theodore, this height is the synonym of how he is able to control his life, how he is still living because he decided to not jump. Violet was actually considering to end her life and finally join her sister. Theodore saved Violet’s life, even though it seemed unlikely for most students, but in order to save face, they both pretend that she was the one who saved him. Soon after this event, they are paired up for a school project about discovering Indiana’s natural wonders. As their feelings for each other begin to grow, their wandering is leading them on the path of recovery.
I have to admit that both characters were pretty credible and their pain was so thoroughly described that it was hard to read about. I found the mental health very well written, weirdly because I couldn’t name what was wrong with Theodore until one school advisor puts his finger on it. I feel like if it was subtle enough for me not being able to diagnose it for sure then, it’s probably well written because mental health comes in a multitude of shades. I liked Violet and Theodore’s relationship, with both highs and lows, only able to be themselves when with the other, it was easy to believe. This book wasn’t unnecessarily long, but yet I managed to feel like I had enough information and enough pages of relationship and character development. However, I strongly disliked the ending.
“What a terrible feeling to love someone and not be able to help them.”
I know, you might call me all the names in the world, because I wrote dozens of reviews where I said that the main characters don’t die enough. Like there is a big war and they are so badass that they couldn’t die while still defeating thousands of armed men (hi there, Aelin). I remember complaining at the end of My Heart and Other Black Holes that it made me feel like depression was something light that could be cured overnight by love. Well, it’s probably because the love story wasn’t complex or developed enough. Here I’m very satisfied with how Theodore helped Violet getting better, but not with how Theodore ended.
I understand how living pains Theodore, how every day is a struggle for him, however, I don’t think that he desperately wanted to die either. Also, I don’t understand why he wanted Violet to find new happiness, loving life if he just meant to exit it. He knows how she is struggling to deal with her sister’s death, hell, he helped her to mourn, it makes no sense to me that he would make her endure the pain all over again. Her heartbreak was unnecessary and made me feel like I wasted my time reading this book. I feel like suicide is used as a plot device to add some drama while the rest of the story was beautifully and accurately written. The fact that his death leaves us on a doubt, like “maybe he wanted to die or maybe he wanted to reach the bottom of the Blue Hole” is not respectful of his character development and it is making me so angry.
Have you read or will you read this book?
What did you think about it?