All the Bright Places
By Jennifer Niven
Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. 388 pages. Young adult fiction.
Finch and Violet meet at the top of the school bell tower. Finch talks her off the ledge; Violet gets credit from her classmates for talking "Theodore the Freak" down. And thus starts a beautiful and unusual friendship between two troubled teens. Thrown together on a school project to discover Indiana, the two develop a close bond that others can't understand and begin a desperate journey to heal one another.
This may have been one of the most beautiful books I've read in a long time. But be warned: I spent the last third of the book crying, so this may not be the best book to pull out while you're waiting in line at the DMV or on your lunch break. Niven has woven a story that talks understandingly to teens (and adults) about mental illness, abuse, bullying, and suicide without ever sounding preachy or condemning. Her characters are troubled, but sympathetic, and you want desperately for both Finch and Violet to find peace. I'm actually getting teary writing up this review, so I'm going to end by saying that the book does have some strong profanities and teen sexuality, although nothing is graphically described. She covers some difficult topics, but they're important topics and beautifully written. And even though there is a lot of sadness, it ends with a tone of hope that makes it a book that is emotional, but not soul-crushing.