Tuesday, June 2, 2015

All The Bright Places

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

I have to be completely honest that I had no idea what I was getting into when I decided to buy this book. I didn't read the blurb before I bought it, or before I started reading. Only that the cover looked happy and cheerful and so very different from the books I'm used to. "I love books, " I thought to myself as I put this one in my cart. "Even if I don't read it, it's so pretty and will look nice on my shelf."
Well, when I pick a book to read, unless it's for a review request, I let the book pick me and this one stood out and a part of me whispered, "Why not?"


Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Personal Opinion:

It is my personal opinion that this book should have come with a warning.
That is coming from me, accepter of the dark and horrible.
I didn't know I was reading a book about suicide.

By page four I was already in tears and wanted to throw the book across the room. I knew what was going to happen because I've seen it happen.

On October, 22, 2009, my first true friend, Ryan Phillip Russell, took his own life at age 19.
It was never ruled an official suicide, but I know better, because he told me what he was planning.
"Don't worry," He said. "I won't do it."
I believed him, and will forever feel that guilt.
The next day I got the call and I just... died a little myself.
He was a free spirit who loved music and movies and playing video games and shredding on the guitar. He taught me everything I know about computers. He was the sweetest person I ever knew and loved deeper than anyone else I have ever known. I still hold on to the wisdom of our late night conversations and remember growing up together so fondly I think his existence in my childhood was one of the only things that made it bright enough to be worth remembering. I was so in love with him.
And now he's gone.

So reading this book that allowed me to see inside the mind of some teetering on that edge hurt so badly I almost couldn't finish it.

That being said, I did finish the book though it took me a long time and I'm still torn between "I want this book to die a fiery death." and "I'm glad I read it" even though I rated it 5 stars.

I rated it as such, because of the fact that I am glad this topic was touched in such a real way. This was not pretty.
Suicide never is. What comes after Suicide never is.
I usually like not pretty, but this not pretty makes me feel like I've stepped on a nail. It's painful and made me sob like I had actually stepped on a rusty nail.

So bear with me through this review because my thoughts are all over the place.

Thinking about how much I relate to this book is hard for me to be honest, I gross cried through most of it.
Ryan and Finch are so very similar.

In the beginning, I kind of knew how it would end, but I had such a hope that I was wrong. 

Me: "Please save him." I thought desperately as I turned each page.

I've never felt so betrayed by a book to be honest, especially as a survivor of suicide. We never want to see someone go through what we did. EVER.

However, I understand why Finch had to die. This book is for two kinds of people:
- Those who are suicidal
- Those who were left behind

It shows both sides of the coin.
What you'd be leaving, and how it feels to be left behind.
I don't think people who haven't been in one of those positions will really understand just how well this book is written.

The thing I hated loved the most, was Violet's narrative after Finch's death.
All of those questions, the guilt, the pain, the numbness, the anger are all such real things that follow a suicide. Word for word, I remember having the same thoughts. The same exact thoughts that were written on the page in Violet's voice.

The farther I got in the book though I kept telling myself, "I hate this book. This is an awful, vile book that I want to burn." Yet I kept reading. Why? Because this book is so wonderfully written.
I do not hate the book. No in fact I love the book, even though I know I will never be able to read it again.

What I hate is that it made me relive all of the emotions of my friend's death so vividly. Alas, isn't that what made it great?
Yes. Yes it is.
I kept thinking to myself as Violet would say in the beginning, "I'm not ready."
It's been nearly 5 years and still it hurts. It will never stop hurting. I'm still haunted by the guilt of being the last person he spoke to, especially because of the subject matter of our last conversation. There is so much guilt.
As I read the last few chapters I wept for Violet because I know that no matter how much she thinks she came to terms with Finch's death on that last page, there will be a time where something will remind her of Finch and she will just break down. This is the first time I've read a book and have been able to KNOW what comes next after the last page. Violet is in for a long battle with grieving.

At the end when I read the author's notes, I wept for Ms. Niven and her loss as well and I have something I would like to say to her.

Dear Ms. Niven,
You took your pain and put it into something that will save people's lives.
I can imagine that this book was very hard for you to write, but on behalf of the people's lives your book will save and the people, like me and you, who were left behind who know now that they aren't alone in the way the felt after, I needed that. Thousands of people needed that.
 Thank you. 

Now, I'd like to do the same thing Ms. Niven did at the end of the book.

By clicking the link below you will be taken to a list of international suicide lines.

International Suicide Hotlines
Please don't be afraid to reach out and remember it does always get better.

"In order to see a rainbow, you must first withstand the rain." - Me to Ryan in the weeks before his death.

Favorite Quotes:
People rarely bring flowers to a suicide

I should be happy, but instead I feel nothing. I feel a lot of nothing these days. I've cried a few times, but mostly I'm empty, as if whatever makes me feel and hurt and laugh and love has been surgically removed, leaving me hollowed out like a shell.

 Your hope lies in accepting your life as it now lies before you, forever changed. If you can do that, the peace you seek will follow. Forever changed. I am forever changed.

Overall Rating:

 Even now, I'm crying. Beautiful book, ugly feelings.

In Loving Memory Of Ryan Phillip Russell.

"You saved my life. Why couldn't I save yours?"

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