All the Bright Places Summary

Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places

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All the Bright Places Summary

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All the Bright Places is a 2015 Young Adult novel by Jennifer Niven, winner of the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult fiction. The novel deals with the stories of two suicidal teenagers, and as such deals with serious topics, such as mental illness, suicide, guilt, loss, love, family, and death.

The two teenagers take turns narrating events, and each chapter switches perspectives. They are high school seniors: Violet Markey, a popular girl, and Theodore Finch, the school loser. The only thing that would have ever brought the two together is that they both climbed the bell tower at school at the same time, planning to jump off the ledge. Finch is surprised that Violet is up there, because she’s a popular school cheerleader. But Violet has been dealing with the death of her sister, for which she feels responsible. Violet’s sister died in a car accident, and Violet hasn’t been in a car since. She quit the student council, then cheerleading, and now cares about absolutely nothing.

On the ledge, Finch talks Violet down, and Violet manages to return the favour.

As for Finch, he is depressed and experiences near-constant thoughts of suicide. Morbidly, he writes out fun facts about other people’s suicides in his journal. He initiates a partnership between himself and Violet for a school project in which they will explore their home state of Indiana together. Later, at home, Finch thinks about Violet, looking her up on Facebook, reading about her sister’s accident (which he had forgotten) and chatting online with her. Finch’s family does not understand his depression, so he feels isolated.

For their project, Finch and Violet travel around their state to see important or unusual sites. They see homemade roller coasters, the highest hill in Indiana, and more. The important thing doesn’t seem to be the sites themselves, but what the wandering begins to mean for both of them—especially Violet. The two begin a romantic relationship and are clearly falling in love. Eventually, Finch becomes a kind of mentor and counsellor for Violet. He helps her begin to talk about her sister’s death, which her parents have not managed to do. He inspires her to travel in a car again and begin writing again, things she had avoided for nine months. Violet begins to heal.

Finch, however, is getting much worse. He suffers from an undiagnosed bipolar disorder and therefore deals with very high highs and very low lows. His behaviour throughout his chapters demonstrates the characteristic manic periods of impulsive excitability as well as the lethargic, pointless mindset during the depressive periods. He is also beaten by his father and bullied at school. The one shining spot in his life is his budding relationship with Violet.

One afternoon, they have sex at the Blue Hole, during another “wandering” moment. They accidentally stay out until the next morning. Violet’s parents are angry, forbidding their daughter from seeing Finch anymore.

This begins a downward spiral for Finch, who ends up getting expelled from school. Although he still sees Violet on occasion, Finch is easily able to hide his worsening depression from her. Violet doesn’t realise the seriousness of the situation and wonders if Finch is losing interest in her.

One particularly bad night, Finch decides to end it. He takes a handful of sleeping pills, but almost immediately regrets it. He goes to the ER and gets his stomach pumped. After that, he tries to get help through a suicide support group in a nearby town. There, he runs into Amanda, another girl he knows from school. She is concerned about Finch’s suicide attempt and tells Violet about it. Violet is obviously concerned and tries to help. Finch explodes, and the two get in a big fight.

Finch runs away from home, and only Violet seems to be looking for him. He sends her mysterious texts while he visits the remainder of the locations for their unfinished project, but Violet doesn’t understand them until much later.

A month after he has disappeared, Finch sends an email to every single person he knows. He is saying goodbye. Violet, in a panic, figures out that he has drowned himself at the Blue Hole. She goes there and discovers she is right. She is distraught. She manages to decode the texts Finch had sent her, and at the last location they were supposed to visit together, Finch wrote a song for her. This helps the healing process, and convinces Violet that Finch’s suicide was not her fault.

Life goes on, and so does Violet. She continues to work on her writing. She is still extremely sad about her sister and Finch, but she manages to keep going and graduate from high school. In the end, although tragic, the novel encourages the reader to believe everything will work itself out somehow.