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All the Bright Places    by Jennifer Niven Amazon.com order for
All the Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2015 (2015)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

In All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven deftly handles the topics of teen suicide and survivor's guilt. While this is a big challenge in and of itself, she also creates an amazing travel guide for unusual Indiana.

Theodore Finch and Violet Markey's first meeting occurs in a rather odd place their school's clock tower. Both are up there contemplating what it would be like to jump, but for different reasons. Violet's older sister died in a car crash almost a year ago, taking an icy bridge that Violet told her to take. Finch is back at school for the first time since falling asleep over a month ago. Finch saves Violet, but the school witnesses her helping him down.

When their teacher assigns a project to explore their home state of Indiana before they graduate, Finch immediately claims Violet as his partner. Violet was hoping to use her usual excuse of extenuating circumstances to get out of the project, especially since she has not been in a car since that fatal night. However, she finds Finch's enthusiasm infectious and is soon getting into the spirit of wandering herself. The project seems to do both of them a world of good, but some things are not always what they seem.

Niven deals with tough subjects and does not sugarcoat anything. Her portrayal of Finch and Violet and their problems is honest and real. While All the Bright Places is littered with hope, Niven is not afraid to show that sometimes hope is just not enough.

This is a sad story, but it is also a fun story. Finch shows the readers not just Violet that you need to get out and explore. While All the Bright Places focuses on Indiana, all states have unique places to visit. This type of wandering is a great way to learn more about yourself and the world around you, just as Finch and Violet did. Jennifer Niven is really onto something here. As this is her debut, I know more great things are to come.

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