Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 673
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven switches point of view between two teenagers: Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. They are both battling their own demons. Finch is bullied at school and has thoughts of suicide. Violet's sister, Eleanor, recently died in a car accident, and Violet is experiencing survivor's guilt. The chapters alternate between their points of view.
Finch starts off the books with asking us, "Is today a good day to die?" This is a strong hook that also lets us know about Finch's suicidal thoughts. However, before the chapter ends, Finch reflects on his mental illness while talking with his counselor:
“The thing I don’t say is: I want to stay alive. The reason I don’t say it is because, given that fat folder in front of him, he’d never believe it. And here’s something else he’d never believe—I’m fighting to be here in this shitty, messed-up world. Standing on the ledge of the bell tower isn’t about dying. It’s about having control. It’s about never going to sleep again.”
This quote shows us how Finch wants to survive, but he has trouble fighting for the will to live. This shows us how he seeks control in life. By claiming that he doesn't say this aloud because no one would believe him, he expresses his isolation and the feeling that no one understands him.
Finch and Violet recognize each other from classes, but the first time they truly meet is when they share a moment atop the bell tower. They are both intending to jump off, but end up saving each other. Finch tells Violet:
“I want you to throw your shoes toward the bell and then hold on to the rail, just grab right onto it, and once you’ve got it, lean against it and then lift your right foot up and over. Got that?”
He then contemplates stepping off the ledge, when he hears:
“I want you to hold on to the rail, and once you’ve got it, lean against it and lift your right foot up and over.”
Violet repeats his words back to him, and he listens. These quotes are important because they show how the two save each other and how someone who is practically a stranger can save someone else's life. This moment is the start of their relationship, and the start of their healing process.
"It's my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them."
This quote from Finch expresses his frustration with mental illness. Instead of receiving sympathy or help, he is bullied at school and called a "freak." It is hard for others to understand invisible illnesses because they cannot see what the problem is. If there was some physical manifestation of his mental illness, perhaps people would understand and would be able to help him.
"Maybe, if I wear the glasses long enough, I can be like her. I can see what she saw. I can be both of us at once so no one will have to miss her, most of all me."
After Eleanor dies, Violet changes. Once popular, she quits student council and cheerleading, and doesn't enjoy hanging around the same people anymore. When Finch sees Violet, he notices her glasses. When we read Violet's point of view, we have an explanation for them. The glasses are a kind of coping mechanism for Violet. It is an attempt to stay connected with Eleanor.
The following two quotes are reflections on what each character means to the other.
"For what it's worth, you showed me something, Ultraviolet—there is such a thing as a perfect day."
"No more winter at all. Finch, you brought me spring."
In spite of tragedy, the two grow close and bring light into their lives.
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