#WellnessReads: Danielle Saul reviews All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

I joined a book club. It’s making me a kinder, smarter person, actually. Proof in this article that reveals recent scientific evidence that reading fiction increases empathy. Despite being a lifelong book nerd, I fell away from fiction for almost a decade. I think there’s something about the pace, some fundamental slowing down required by the reader in order to allow yourself to immerse in the words, the other world, to match the tempo and rhythm of your thinking flow with the writer’s. I chewed through non-fiction because I could gobble it up, I could skim it, and I didn’t ever feel bad if I didn’t finish, because most non-fiction is really just a long-form magazine article all bloated. So. Joining a book club has forced me to read fiction. And hence, become a better version of myself. So, this Kinder-Better-new-and-improved Me asked a fellow club-ian to write up the most recent book our collective tackled. Huge thanks to Danielle Saul for suggesting this one, and jumping in with both feet to share what she liked about it. Are you in a book club? Is it making you a better person?! We would be stoked to feature reviews or write-ups of the books your group has tackled… 

Over to Danielle.

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‘All the Bright Places’ is the first ‘YA’, or ‘Young Adult’, book from Jennifer Niven. And the first YA novel read by the Pemberton Book Club I belong to.

All the Bright Places

As with many YA novels, this one has become extremely popular and is soon to be made into a movie starring Elle Fanning as the female lead.

Little Miss Fanning

Now, it’s amazing how many people are resistant to reading a book that they’d possibly be ashamed to be seen reading in public. They want to be seen reading great tomes, by well respected, serious authors. Remember Harry Potter and it’s re-vamped cover just for adults?! How can one be taken seriously reading books meant for teenagers? Who cares? If you do, you’ll miss out on beautiful, well written, heart wrenching pieces of fiction like All the Bright Places.

The book is about Finch, who is fascinated with death and always thinking about ways to kill himself, and Violet, who can’t wait to escape her Indiana town after her sister’s death. Not pretty topics but ones that many of us have had to deal with. And interesting to see how someone else copes (or doesn’t), especially ones so young.

“An exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.”

It’s always a challenge for me to work out what the title of a book means. Sometimes it’s obvious. Other times, not so much. So, what are these ‘bright places’ to which the book alludes? To me, it’s Finch planting the seeds of excitement about living, loving, and all the bright places he and (Ultra)violet will wander to and experience.

The message to take from the book? It’s not what you take, it’s what you leave (behind that helps put all the bright things in one’s life into perspective).

With its surprisingly complex characters, relatable conflicts such as death, suicide, depression, mental illness, labels, stigmas, family dysfunction, drugs, to name but a few, and its empowering messages, it’s a tough book not to like. Even if you’re determined not to.

And if you’re a parent you owe it to your kids to read books like ‘All the Bright Places’ (also ‘Eleanor and Park’ by Rainbow Rowell and ‘The Fault in our Stars’ by John Green) so you can better understand the world they live in, which is so different from the one we grew up in. And you can tell your friends *that’s* why you’re reading it…

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