"I learned that there is good in this world, if you look hard enough for it. I learned that not everyone is disappointing, including me, and that a 1,257-foor bump in the ground can feel higher than a bell tower if you're standing next to the right person..."
My 2015 reading started off with a crying session. All the Bright Places really brought the emotions. I was a little bit afraid to read it, but I'm very glad that I did.
The book begins when the two main characters meet on their school's bell tower. Theodore Finch is the troubled outcast, so it seems perfectly natural that he is up there. Violet Markey dated the golden boy and socialized with the popular kids. Her life seems perfect. Finch ends up talking her down off the ledge. He also lets her take credit for saving him so that nobody knows the real reason she was up there.
It's been almost a year since the car accident that killed Violet's sister, Eleanor. She is afraid to drive or even ride in a car. She refuses to write again, afraid that she is betraying the webzine she made with her sister.
Their Geography teacher assigns them a project to visit the unique sites in their home state of Indiana. Finch immediately picks Violet as his partner. Throughout the beginning of the book, she doesn't really like him much. He is trying to insert himself into her life, but she is resistant because of what her classmates might think and because she wants to forget about the bell tower incident.
Finch is very persistent and persuasive. He sets up a Facebook for the sole purpose of befriending Violet, and they end up exchanging Virginia Woolf quotes. They go on wanderings for their project, and Finch ends up getting her to ride in his van, even gets her to write their project journal. In return, she made Finch want to be better and try harder to control himself, to be good enough for her.
Theodore Finch really is a troubled young man. His mother works two jobs and doesn't pay enough attention to him or his sisters. His father is busy with the new family he abandoned them for, and he is also an abusive asshole. Finch changes his personality every now and then, from badass Finch to homeless Finch to nerd Finch. He is a liar and has very violent outbursts (Thankfully never around Violet). Throughout the book, he is afraid of going to sleep again. Not actual sleep, but the sleep-like state he had been in before the events of the book. As Finch himself said:
"But I'm not a compilation of symptoms. Not a casualty of shitty parents and an even shittier chemical makeup. Not a problem. Not a diagnosis. Not an illness. Not something to be rescued. I'm a person..."
Finch was also very endearing. He did such sweet things like wash the dishes for his tired mother and run three miles in the snow to get flowers for Violet. He was funny and charming, and I loved him. At first, I was terrified that Violet was going to hurt him. Then I realized that he might hurt her just as much. I just wanted both of those kids to be together and happy.
I have never been so afraid to read the ending to a book before. This isn't a horror story, but it is absolutely terrifying. You definitely need a box of tissues.
I received my copy of All the Bright Places from Edelweiss, courtesy of Knopf. It's available for purchase now.