I decided to read All the Bright Places after listening to an author interview. I knew before I started that the book deals with suicide, loss, and grief. I knew it would rip my heart out. I read it anyway.
The voices of the characters, particularly Finch, drew me in right away. I fell in love with him right alongside Violet. The author portrayed bipolar disorder very well, making it easy to understand and empathize with him.
I was so busy falling in love with the characters and their love story that I was not prepared for the tragedy I knew was coming. It, as I had predicted, broke my heart. Along with the characters, I found myself asking, “What if?” What if Violet had said this, what if she hadn't done that? What if Finch’s parents had responded this way? Etc. I wanted to imagine a different ending by placing blame where it did not belong--even though I knew the whole thing was imagined and set up by the author. That is the power of great storytelling. The author let me feel what a survivor of suicide would feel. It was painful...but Finch’s end was not Violet’s end.
As the story continued, and Violet learned it was not her fault, I found some release as a reader. I still wished Finch could have been saved--that someone would have figured out where he was and what he was doing ahead of time. I was still broken-hearted--not only for this larger-than-life fictional character, but for every bright, creative, misunderstood person who makes the heart-breaking decision to commit suicide...and for all those they leave behind.
All the Bright Places is not didactic. It does not present Finch as selfish, or as justified. He just is. For me personally, the lesson I took away was to live bigger. To love more deeply. To shine brighter. And to notice the beauty in everything. It is a story that will break your heart, but, if you let it, will make you appreciate life even more. It is a novel I highly recommend.
(Note: All the Bright Places contains sex, mature language, and mature themes.)