The story begins as two high schoolers, Violet Markey and Theodore Finch, meet at the top of the school bell tower, where they each have gone to contemplate suicide. They find their way down, and their love story unfolds in the novel, All the Bright Places.
Author Jennifer Niven, knows a few things about mental health. Her great-grandfather died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and a few years before finishing her novel, she discovered that a friend had killed himself.
The characters in All the Bright Places are either experiencing mental illness or interacting with it in others. And the whole process of being mentally ill is exhausting for them. Readers journey with Violet and Theodore through their process to come to terms with their mental illnesses.
Nivens hopes to not only entertain readers, but to address the stigmas of mental illness. According to her stats from Mental Health America, around 80 percent of mental illness goes either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. And that's the stigma of people not wanting to be labeled as such. She explains, "Labels like ‘bipolar’ say, 'This is why you are the way you are. This is who you are.' They explain people away as illnesses."
But readers come to understand Violet and Finch's characters so deeply that they can hopefully correct some of their misconceptions of what it's like to live with mental illness.
We're happy to see anything that helps relieve mental illness of its stigma receive attention and start conversations. Jennifer Niven's art is certainly doing both. (Watch out for the Elle Fanning movie adaptation!)