My goodness, it’s been a while since a book has made me cry like All the Bright Places did. To be clear, by ‘cry’ I don’t just mean welling up, or a single tear sliding gracefully down my face… I mean a streaming cascade of tears blurring my vision so that I couldn’t even read the next line, meaning that I had to take frequent breaks to sort myself out. I was left an emotional wreck, but in the best way possible. Quite honestly, I had forgotten the power books can have, the way they can draw you in and make you feel part of the story, and whilst other books I’ve read recently have definitely been emotive, none have been quite like this.
All the Bright Places covers some incredibly important issues, but intertwines them so perfectly within the story and characters that it left me unable to put the book down. It was both informative and captivating, humorous and heart-breaking. Violet and Finch are both deeply complex yet relatable characters. I felt as though I was secretly watching their forbidden relationship, being the only person to know their inner thoughts. Their love story was beautiful, built on literature, place and a need to save each other. I became quickly attached to them, rooting for their relationship, and most of all their happiness.
Mental health (or perhaps more pertinently, mental illness) is still such a taboo subject with a huge stigma attached to it. All the Bright Places captures the experiences of mental illness and battles with labels and stigma, without sugar coating or pretending that everything always ends happily. The book balances suicide, death, grief, guilt and domestic violence, with humour, adventure, love, school life and friendship. Whilst writing this, lyrics of the song ‘Tracks of my tears’ spring to mind – ‘So take a good look at my face, you’ll see my smile looks out of place. If you look closer it’s easy to trace the tracks of my tears.’ Mental illness isn’t always easy to see, and this book left me feeling a need to be more compassionate. It’s true that you never know what somebody else is going through, whether that be the school ‘freak’ or the ‘popular’ girl, and everybody else in between.
I’m so glad that this is part of the Zoella Book Club and that so many people are reading it. All the Bright Places is not only an ‘I can’t put this down’ type of story, but has so much meaning that it really should be read by everyone. And for anybody experiencing mental illness, to quote Jennifer Niven: You are not alone. It’s not your fault. Help is out there.