Tag Archives: Suicide

All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places – Jennifer NivenTitle: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Publishing Info: January 6, 2015 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Netgalley
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: January 9, 2015

     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.

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If there’s anything you need to know about ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES, it’s that it’s a book that will stick with you long after you’ve finished reading. I actually didn’t get around to writing my review until about a month after I finished reading and yet all of the emotions I felt as I was reading quickly came flooding back to me once I began to reflect on the book once more.

The tagline for ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES describes it as a mashup of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park and while I see elements of both and feel like it’s a lot to compare a new release to these two giant names in contemporary, I feel like those comparisons really don’t do the book justice. I can spot where the pieces of these two books that could have drawn up these comparisons but ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES is a book that easily makes a name for itself and stands on its own two feet, offering a unique and emotionally-charged story that reaches out to a wide audience.

When the book first opens, we’re presented with two characters: Violet Markey and Theodore Finch. What do they have in common? They’re both on the brink of suicide… and yet their stories are both very different. Immediately was invested but it actually took just a little bit for me to get into the book because I wasn’t quite sure where it was going — but that was a good thing. ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES wasn’t predictable, or at least it wasn’t for me. Violet seemed to be suffering for a depression after the loss of her sister about a year prior but Finch… he had a bit of a different situation going on. He describes his struggle in unique way that I didn’t quite understand at first, saying he goes from periods of being asleep and struggles to find the periods where he can feel awake. This causes him to miss weeks of school, to seem like an oddball to his peers so what does he do? He shrugs it off. Plays into the “weirdo” comments of his classmates. Tries on new personalities. Finch is so unique and so wonderful and I got to know this charismatic guy who was really struggling with something in his life and didn’t know how or why he was feeling the way he was and couldn’t surface long enough to do anything about it.

I don’t want to retell the whole story because it’s a really wonderful experience that I want readers to have for themselves, but I will tell you that I absolutely fell in love with these two main characters and how they ended up forming a bond with each other. Violet and Finch were two kids who may have never come together without going through these incredible struggles in their lives and how they end up working through things with each other just really warmed my heart and soul.

That being said, the book isn’t without a dark side. Both Violet and Finch have their own personal demons and it’s no common sadness. They both have serious issues to work through on many levels and although it’s hard to watch them experience, it’s such an incredible story to witness. I absolutely love what they discover about themselves through their friendship and experiences. They learn how to open up to each other and to the world. They learn how to laugh again, how to let go, how to speak, how to enjoy each day. I just really loved both of them so much and they ended up feeling like real people to me. This wasn’t just the story of Violet and Finch, but every person — young and old — who has been in their shoes.

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES was a home run for me. I was an emotional wreck after this book, having experienced some real highs and some true lows. I laughed, I cried (so hard), and I loved. This book has stuck with me since I finished reading and I know it will stick with me for a long time. It already holds a special place in my heart and truly the emotions come flooding back to me just thinking about the book or hearing the title. It’s one I truly recommend for so, so many reasons and I can’t stress enough the importance of what you’ll learn from these two characters.

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Violet // Character Obsessions: Her sister, her fears, her grief.
I really felt for Violet. After losing her sister in car accident, Violet suffers from depression and survivor’s guilt… Except she does the best job that she can to hide the depression side of things. Her parents understand that things haven’t been the same since Violet’s sister died and yet I don’t think they really understood how bad things were. For that, I’m so thankful for Finch. He happened to have the same motives as Violet and yet, he went out of his way to save her that day and everything in her life changed. I was just really happy to see that person show up in her life that could really make a difference when she had shut everyone out.
Finch // Character Obsessions: Personas, living in the moment, Violet, words.
Oh, Finch. I really didn’t know how to understand him at first. He seemed a quirky — which he was — and I wasn’t sure how to take that. But the more you get to know Finch, the more you understand why he acts the way he does. What makes him tick. And I really just fell in love with his character. I loved the relationship he and Violet started. I really just felt for him in general and his story was just so heartbreaking.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Mental Health Awareness. ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES really demonstrates how mental health issues can really go unnoticed or even hidden. It’s really important to acknowledge that just because it’s an issue or disease that’s not physically manifested, it doesn’t mean that it’s not equally important. Both Violet and Finch struggled with psychological and mental health issues that were too easily kicked under the rug or not addressed. They found each other to help them through a lot but it cannot just be brushed off.
Left Me Wanting More: Hugs. I need a hug after reading this book. I want to give hugs after reading this book. It really put my emotions through the wringer but in a good way! It was such a powerful read for me.

Addiction Rating
BUY IT!

Buy this book. Read this book. Love this book. It was an instant favorite, an emotional journey, and a book I will be recommending for a very long time.

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BOOKS LIKE ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

        ALTHEA & OLIVER     THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING

I Was Here – Gayle Forman

I Was Here – Gayle FormanTitle: I Was Here by Gayle Forman
Publishing Info: January 27, 2015 by Penguin
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: October 16, 2014
Related Posts: If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Sisters in Sanity, If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5), Leave Me, I Have Lost My Way

    Cody and Meg were inseparable.
    Two peas in a pod.
    Until . . . they weren’t anymore.
    When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.
    I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

bookreview1It’s no secret that I’m a HUGE Gayle Forman fan so needless to say, I WAS HERE was one of my most anticipated reads of 2015 that I hope to read way before 2015. Firstly, it was Gayle Forman so I knew I WAS HERE would not only bring a new level of intensity and maturity — since I’ve seen her writing grow each book — but also an onslaught of raw emotion that I fell head over heels for in books like IF I STAY and JUST ONE DAY.

I devoured I WAS HERE in a single day. Granted, I was home sick with a cold, but in a way, I was kind of thankful for it because this was a book I didn’t want to put down. My first reaction after finishing was that I WAS HERE definitely had a different feel than Gayle Forman’s previous books… But looking back, JUST ONE DAY and JUST ONE YEAR were also very different from IF I STAY/WHERE SHE WENT. I do have moments where reading a new book from a dearly cherished author is hard. Yes, IF I STAY and JUST ONE DAY (and their respective companions) both dealt with loss and relatives being taken from the main characters when they were far too young… but I WAS HERE deals with not only loss of life but someone you thought you knew inside and out choosing to leave this world and everyone else in it behind. (Of course those with experience dealing with depression know that it’s much more complicated than a “choice”, but since this is a review, I’m not going to get into that whole discussion!)

I WAS HERE felt quite a bit different than Gayle’s previous books in two noticeable ways for me. The first was that there was much more of a plot driven by the need to find an answer to a mystery. Obviously any plot has to have some sort of need for a resolution otherwise the book seems to have no point… but with Gayle’s previous books, it was much more about the characters finding an answer about themselves versus an outside motive, which brings me to the second big difference for me: the involvement of a third major character. Although Meg has already taken her life at the start of the book, she’s the driving force behind the whole novel and everything that Cody does. Cody and male lead Ben would never meet without the connection through Meg and it creates a sort of triangle (no, not a love triangle, although things do tend to get a little sticky with Ben and Meg being close at one point) or circle of events that tend to loop back around from person to person. IF I STAY and JUST ONE DAY certainly had other characters that played their own roles, but the focus was very much on a decision and self-discovery that the main character has to make and their romantic connection to another character. With a third element in the story, for some reason it just held and entirely different feel for me.

It may sound like this is bad thing but it’s definitely not. I think it’s hard to read an author’s work when you sort of sense a “pattern” and start to get comfortable with what to expect. It was a bit different for me to read I WAS HERE with this new “pattern”, new subject matter, and a brand-new feel but that also taught me not to get comfortable with what I read. My favorite authors will always be writing something new, constantly improving themselves and their writing, and bringing fresh topics to their readers and I’m so impressed with how no matter what Gayle Forman has written so far, I’ve fallen in love with each book she’s penned in very different ways. I love how I can read a book by one of my favorite authors and get something a little different each time, knowing that it keeps her growing as a writer and me growing as a reader. I’m getting a bit off-topic here, but from what I’ve heard when seeing Gayle speak at events, I feel like this is definitely something that’s important to her so I feel a small sense of pride when I notice something like that.

I got a bit technical with the review here, but don’t worry — there are also some major swoons! Yes, there is a bit of romance and it’s incredibly interesting to see how it unfolds. Cody meets Ben under some strange and tense circumstances (which makes sense considering she’s essentially looking further into her friend’s suicide and Ben was one of the people she talked to the most) so there’s quite the tension wondering what will happen between the two — and if anything COULD ever happen between the two — due to Ben’s previous interactions with Meg. Personally? I loved how everything was handled. I don’t want to say TOO much about it because it’s best for the reader to discover that for themselves, but I ended up explaining the situation to someone else and I really think it all unfolded in the best way possible.

Naturally in a Gayle Forman book, there is no shortage of gut-punching feels. The loss of Meg is just devastating to everyone she was connected to. I’ve never experienced a loss like that and I can’t even imagine what people have gone through that have felt like, but reading books that deal with topics such as death and suicide, I really tend to latch on to the families and friends of these characters pretty hard and I tend to sort of lose myself in the book. It’s definitely a heavy-hitting book as far as emotional roller coasters go but Gayle Forman knows exactly where to lead you on that journey. It’s really interesting to see different character’s reactions and I think she did a great job of showing a wide range of handling grief. One might thing it manifests only in sadness but some characters — especially Cody — experience anything from confusion to anger to depression to motivation. As always, I just really love how real every character felt and Gayle Forman always does an amazing job at bringing characters, setting, and emotions to life in her books.

When I sat down to write this review, I did NOT plan to write seven paragraphs. In fact, I had no idea what I was possibly going to say. I worried that it would sound like I hated the book since it was so hard for me to rate. I feel like usually “hard ratings” are due to overwhelming emotions for people — which yes, it was for me — but also that “different feeling” for me made it hard for me to assess my true feelings for the book. Obviously once I started writing about it, it was obvious how much this book really moved me and, well, I already knew it was a 4.5 to 5 star book for me, but being able to talk about it only convinced me more. Sometimes reviews just tend to take you on a journey you didn’t expect and my review for I WAS HERE certainly did that for me. Personally, I can’t wait to see what this book helps other people discover! I’m really looking forward to discussing this one with people. (Now that I’ve found the words, I know you can too!)

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Cody // Character Obsessions: Meg, looking into her suicide, grieving.
Oh, oh, Cody. I can’t even imagine what she went through after losing Meg and then feeling like she had to take it even further to investigate. That’s just so painful. Cody was a really interesting character, though. She possessed such strength and I was absolutely rooting for her as I witnessed her waffling from grief to strength and everything in between. I loved her loyalty to Meg, even after her death, and I was scared for her in more ways than one. I really loved getting to know her in this book and also just wanted to hug her.
Ben // Character Obsessions: Music, his sister, girls. 
There was a period of time that I wasn’t sure if we should like Ben… But the more I got to know about him, the more I did like and the more I found out, the more I got to see beneath the rough exterior. (Okay, it wasn’t really that rough, but he took a while to figure out.) Anyway. I don’t want to say TOO much about him because again — another thing for the reader to explore on their own!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Being so involved that I can’t stop reading. I love books that I can read in one day. I wasn’t exactly sure where this story was taking me and what I would read and what I would feel but I was just SO involved in what was going on. I couldn’t stop reading and I couldn’t put this book down.
Left Me Wanting More: Familiarity? Honestly, it’s hard to say. I really enjoyed this book a LOT but I was also missing SOMETHING (still not 100% sure what) that “felt” like a Gayle book. It was just a feeling that I couldn’t pinpoint. Like I said, not necessarily a bad thing, but something that happens as authors grow! Things change and hey, they need to from book to book so the books don’t get old and feel like they’re repeating themselves. I just can’t quite name what felt different and a tiny bit less familiar but it did.

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

I mean, it’s Gayle Forman. I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t be let down! I WAS HERE was a very emotional and moving read. I was completely hooked and utterly interested and it certainly made me think about a lot. Gayle’s characters always just feel so real. I think fans of Gayle Forman will love it and people who haven’t been totally sold on her previous books (I mean, I like to pretend that doesn’t happen, but I know you’re out there!) should definitely give this one a shot.

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BOOKS LIKE I WAS HERE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

        the sea of tranquility       the sky is everywhere