I’ve been MIA…I know. I’ve been changing jobs (gifted education specialist) and taking classes and raising kids and updating a house and doing life. Don’t worry – I’ve been reading all this time, but writing reviews and sharing my book journeys with you all has had to take a back seat to my professional changes and development. But I’m back and, while I still want to make suggestions about how to connect YA books to more classic texts, our classrooms have come a long way since I started this adventure. YA is more accepted than ever before in our nation’s schools even if it is still the “black sheep” of the literary family. I know there are still books being challenged out there, but we’re making progress. I don’t think it’s as important as it used to be to link a YA novel to a classic in order to feel like we’re justified teaching it in our classrooms.
I will continue to review books, but I’m taking a bite-sized approach to my reviews. Who needs to read all my words anyway when there are so many books out there and so little time to read them? I’m still reviewing for authors, but I’m being picky. And I’m still teaching, planning, grading, mothering, wifing, and all the other roles that go into being me. Missed being here and excited to get back in the groove.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Finch is the kind of guy all teens are simultaneously hopeful and fearful they will fall in love with. He is unique, bordering on strange. He is the “bad boy” with good intentions. He is the cliche of the overlooked, misunderstood smart kid who manages to NOT be a cliche. Violet LONGS to be the cliche she was before her sister’s death: cheerleader, popular, snobbish, privileged. A death-wish brings them together and neither one will ever be the same, for better or worse, because of their meeting.
Violet and Finch’s story is full of humor and heartache. Niven has created a fractured kid in Finch who longs to be whole again. Violet is struggling to find a new normal and feel whole after losing her best friend-sister. In Finch, Violet finds the shove she needs to “get back on the camel”. He asks the questions everyone else is afraid to ask and won’t let her squirm out of answering. Violet gives Finch the beauty and acceptance he’s been looking for since long before his father left. The two of them find in each other that conditional but engulfing acceptance of first, true love that will leave them changed for the rest of their lives.
I spent the two and a half days reading this marveling over the quotable lines and humor provided by Finch. He has a wisdom that seems to always come with a skewed perspective on life. People who live as bright and hot and immediate as Finch seem to light up the dark corners that those of us at normal speed seem to miss. Much like Pudge looking for the Great Perhaps, Finch and Violet are looking for All the Bright Places that will remind them that they’re alive and young and infinite. The world in which Finch lives is one that I want to create for myself and my children and my students.
Ultimately heartbreaking (I did the ugly cry), Finch and Violet’s story spirals with the “impending, weightless doom” of the Blue Flash. Through the split narration, readers see both sides of their journey and the ways in which we lie to one another and to ourselves. But it leaves readers with the sense that wandering, experiencing, and loving are the keys to truly finding your path.
SIMILAR TITLES: Looking for Alaska by John Green, Papertowns by John Green, Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
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