all the bright places

From the beginning, Niven sets up a beautiful friendship and begins to tell a story that you can tell has the potential to make readers believe in young love and remind us all why we’re alive. Literary allusions lend the text an air of sophistication without distancing the characters, and the voices of Violet and Finch are expertly crafted, so the novel really feels like young adult fiction and plays on all the innocence, confusion, and exploration that entails. I really, really wanted to be able to call this one a new favorite, thinking that finally, here is a novel that wrestles with suicide but still manages to be sweet and hopeful, but as other reviews have suggested, it does feel overdone. To me this was much better written, with more authentic voices and more original imagery, than John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, but that novel is overrated anyway – the better comparison is to Looking for Alaska, where Finch actually becomes the Alaska, the manic pixie dream boy, the puzzle to be solved. The difference is that maybe Niven took on too much at once with this one, two or three heavy topics too many, and that maybe this YA trend of making characters super “quirky” is at last being exposed as an ineffective shortcut to creating real characters.

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