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‘All the Bright Places’ works, despite use of cliches

By Margaret Pendo

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Human nature is something most of us strive to understand. Reading a book can  give you another perspective on life, whether it changes the way that you think or gives you a better understanding of the way you live your life.

“All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven presents a juxtaposition between two teenagers facing sadness in two different ways. They come together on a ledge on the brink of life. It’s an ornate love story between two kids but also a love story between who you are and how you appreciate it.

The book switches between two different perspectives, Finch, a boy and Violet, a girl. Both of them are seniors. However, Finch, who struggles with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, has a darker view on life while Violet, whose sister has died, has sunken into depression.

They meet on a bell tower both in the same state of mind, but Finch saves Violet from  jumping. He develops a passion for her. He thinks about her constantly and makes it clear to her that he’s interested. She, being depressed, has no interest in being intertwined with him or anything else for that matter.

In an effort to win over Violet, Finch forces them to be partners on a project soon after they meet. The project is to wander to places in their home state of Illinois, to explore and experience life there before they potentially move away for college.

This is out of Violet’s element because ever since her sister died in a car crash, she hasn’t gone anywhere or done anything, her excuse always being her “special circumstances.” Meanwhile Finch is a bright, driving force for their adventures, pushing her outside her comfort zones in all ways possible.

Finch is seemingly the stronger character, always the positivity and light. However, he’s internally struggling with demons that he keeps hidden. He is constantly battling this exterior and interior “sleep” that prevents him from doing anything so he always pushes to do more. He is clearly deeply infatuated with Violet, but he also remains very insular and does many things alone.  

Violet on the other hand is externally sad but helps Finch to have a purpose of his life. She gives him strength through existence; so when Finch pushes her to try new things and she starts pushing through her depression, it strengthens Finch and gives him power to push through his own struggles.

Throughout the book there are many lines that stand out. Finch describes his tombstone header explaining that it will say, “Died in search of the great manifesto.”

Overall a lot of the plot is a cliche, with the two teenagers getting through their internal struggles by helping each other and then ultimately falling in love; but then again life is made of cliches. I would recommend reading this book if you like reading inner monologues and getting a insider’s look on other people’s minds.


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The Oak Leaf, a product of the journalism class, is a vehicle of student expression and a public forum for the Alameda High School community.