All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is a book I wanted to like but I ended up hating. I read a finished copy which I checked out from the library. It takes place in the dual perspective of Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. They go to the same school, but have always led separate lives until they meet on top of the sixth floor of t
heir school, where they both were thinking about killing themselves. Finch talked Violet down from jumping off the roof.
Theodore who is known as Finch is the unpopular boy who causes problems in school. Finch and Violet are both going to counseling, but it seems that it is not helping them at all. Finch had lied constantly to his teachers and counselors to make them believe his father is dead. He lives with his mom and two sisters and has visitation with his much alive father once a week.
Violet was the outgoing cheerleader who loved writing until she was in a car accident where who older sister, Eleanor, died. Violet has refused to ride in a car since the accident and stopped writing her blog, which she shared with her sister.
Both characters become closer when Finch starts watching Violet and volunteers them to work on a class project together that involves going around the state and see different unique locations. They fall in love and bond over their problems.
Thoughts: This is a book that is one of the worst depictions of mental illness I have ever read. The mental illness is mostly brushed aside or romanticized. The talk of suicide throughout the whole novel was basically presented in unique facts. It seemed like the characters where supposed to be fun and quirky, but they just fell flat. The parents in this book were just in the background not doing anything. I do not believe any of the situations with Finch’s parents could have actually happened. The parents were so unrealistic it was just shocking. Everyone is ignoring the teens’ problems. There is no reasonable explanation why Finch was not kicked out of school for throwing a desk at a chalkboard and furthermore that his mother was never brought in to school. I felt like it wanted to be like The Fault in Our Stars but the book was so poorly done it was shocking. Mental Illness is not a quirky indie movie.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon was read in an advanced reader’s copy that I got a ALA Midwinter in 2015. Madeline Whitter is a teenage girl who has been stuck in her house, because she has a life threatening allergy to basically everything. She lives with her protective mother who is a doctor and is visited by her nurse, Carla, who is like second mother.
Madeline’s life changes completely when Olly moves next door. Madeline starts to explore the world outside her house. She starts to dream of doing new things and going new places. She begins to watch Olly and everything he does and feels a connection to him. He shows her his email address with a dry erase marker and begins talking.
Olly works out a way to come visit Madeline by going through decontamination with Carla’s help. Their friendship deepens into something more.
Madeline’s mother finds out about the visits and fires Carla and grounds Madeline. Madeline loses all contact with the outside world and becomes depressed. Madeline comes up with an idea to runaway with Olly and go on a trip that might kill her, but she feels it is worth the risk to live her life. She convinces Olly that she found a miracle cure.
The ending of this book is troublesome. It turns out Madeline is not even sick and her mother invented the illness and Madeline’s whole life is a lie. I felt this ending was a little too easy, but at least it does not magically solve all the problems of the book. Madeline still lives with her mother and has to deal with the past. Even with it’s flaws Everything, Everything is the clear winner.
WINNER: EVERYTHING EVERYTHING BY NICOLA YOON
Reviewed by Cindy Shutts, White Oak Public Library