Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Radio Week: "I Set Fire to the Rain" by Adele

Rachel L takes a look at a powerful new book by one of the NoVA Teen Book Festival authors:

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Warning: This will not be a happy review.

Violet and Finch are seniors in their middle-of-nowhere Indiana high school. Violet is pretty, smart, quiet, friends with the cool kids, though perhaps not exactly a cool kid herself. Finch, also known as Freak, is, as you could guess from his nickname, a wild kid, always in trouble, only has a couple also-outcast friends, and occasionally disappears from school for days. Or months.

This unlikely pair finds one another in an unlikely place: on top of their school, both contemplating their respective ends. Violet is erroneously attributed with saving Finch the Freak’s life, and Finch develops a fast and hard fascination with Violet, particularly in figuring out why this seemingly perfect girl would find herself staring into the void.

The two become partners for a year-long project on exploring their home state of Indiana (mostly because of Finch’s not-so-subtle maneuvering), and as their travels take them to wild and bright Indiana, a friendship that might save or sink both of them unfolds.

All the Bright Places explores friendship, love, depression, and, yes, suicide. Violet is strong, confident, and kind. Finch is loud, gentle, warm, and burns brightly through this world. I had a hard time coming up with songs that embody these two beautiful characters, but I think I ended up with the perfect fit.

Mad World by Tears for Fears
The tune to Mad World is maybe a little weary for Finch, but the lyrics couldn’t have been a better fit. The Tears for Fears song laments the way people move through their days waiting for life and happiness to come to them. Finch is a firm believer in life meaning to the lived, in the most active sense of the word. He pushes himself to feel alive each moment that he is awake (a state that has a very specific meaning for him), and despairs at how his peers and others around him let life just, well, happen. I won’t even get into the chorus and how perfect it is for Finch, mostly because I don’t want to cry at work.

Set Fire to the Rain by Adele
And now we come to Violet’s song. Finch almost literally saves Violet from a fall and as a result wins her trust, her friendship, and her heart. And no matter how deeply Violet trusted him, there was always a part of Finch that was kept from her—and it eventually tore them apart.

I loved All the Bright Places. I loved the characters, each and every one of them. Even the ones who are mean, the ones who didn’t pay attention, the ones who let someone down. I think what Jennifer Niven shows through these people is that we’re all human and sometimes that’s just not enough. And then, sometimes it is.

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