Before I get into this review, I would like everyone to be aware of the heavy themes of suicide and mental illness that are included in this book. It would be unfair of me to skim over these as they are important factors in this story. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is the tale of Theodore Finch and Violet Markey, two teenagers struggling to survive for different reasons. As the snippet on the front cover reads: 'the story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die'. An emotional yet inspirational text about embracing life and the people around you, Niven's story focuses on how two completely different people can support and love one another during similar emotional struggles.
It's a young adult novel, which makes tackling themes such as mental illness and suicide all the more complex. However, through beautifully written and relatable thoughts and feelings, Niven is able to create this sensitive text that highlights struggles that are still too hard for some people to talk about. Through the use of two very different characters, there is an emphasis on how this can happen to anyone. It's a story that has the possibility to change people's perspectives without it being a hard and complex read. It all starts at Violet and Finch's high school, where they both meet unexpectedly at the top of their school's bell tower... and they're not there to look at view.
Break ups are hard. You become so attached to someone and then suddenly it's over. You spend special moments together, experience each other's 'firsts' and then it becomes something in the past. It takes time to get over a break up but once you do, falling in love again reinvigorates you. You might also notice parts of that new person being like who you were with before, but that's not issue because they aren't them. Their personality may be different, or maybe the way they laugh, the way they see the world. Their similarities shouldn't be too haunting. Well, in An Abundance of Katherines by John Green this is certainly not the case. The main character has a type and that is girls with the name Katherine.
Not Catherine. Not Kat. Not Cathy. Not Katrina, Kathleen or Kath. It can only be Katherine... and he's dated 19 of them (hence why there's an abundance). Meet Colin Singleton (funny name for someone who's dated 19 Katherine's). He's a child prodigy who can speak a bunch of different languages fluently, remember a bunch of facts off the top of his head, has a knack for anagramming, loves to study and won a children's quiz show. He's just been dumped by the Katherine who he truly loved. The one he believed he would spend the rest of his days with. It hurts and he doesn't think he'll be able to get over her this time. Then there is his best friend, Hassan, who is also rather intelligent but better at social situations (and also loves Judge Judy) who tells him to get over it... as good friends do, of course. However, this 'getting over it' has a twist... and that's in the form of a road trip.
Think back to high school (or if you’re still there, think about it now). Was there ever anyone who really intrigued you? Not in a bad way but in a way that you felt a need to know them better but never could, maybe because they were ‘cooler’ than you or they weren’t in your group of friends? What was it about them intrigued you? Maybe you really liked them from afar (you know, ‘like-like’) and maybe you fantasised the idea about being together? Well, here’s a story you might connect with.
Paper Towns by John Green focuses on this—the intrigue teenagers can feel towards their peers and the notion they are more than ‘just a person’. It delves into events that can change a person’s perspective as they come of age and what can motivate them to do what they never believed they could (or would). A story about a young man who fantasises over a love for a young woman, the ‘cool’ girl at their high school and the most notorious, and what he does when she disappears.
'...if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.'
Looking for Alaska by John Green is a confronting young adult novel that focuses on the complexities of emotion, ignorance and naivety that adolescents battle through during their transition from childhood to adulthood. Although written in a light-hearted and occasionally humorous tone, there are underlying themes that are dark and serious, emphasising this transition and the troubles that teenagers have with dealing with it.
Culver Creek Boarding School, Alabama, is the setting for this YA novel. We are shoved right into the thick of 'coming of age' teenagers who are battling through assignments and self-discovery. The protagonist Miles, later known as 'Pudge', sets for the boarding school to find his 'Great Perhaps', his inspiration lying with the last words of well-known figures. His mission to attain his 'Great Perhaps' urges him to try new things, which is how the story takes off.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey has grabbed a lot of attention since it was published in the 1960s. It's known for its controversial themes and symbolism, and it gives us a harsh look at a world ruled by a matriarchal dictatorship. A protest novel of its time, this story continues to remain prevalent today and asks us: what are we willing to risk for change?
On the surface, this is a story about a group of men in a mental asylum somewhere in Oregon narrated by Chief Bromden, a patient. The authority figure, Nurse Ratched, keeps the men in line with strict routines and procedures, each day bringing the same ol' thing. That's until Randle McMurphy enters the hospital who is admitted after being diagnosed as a psychopath, which means he avoids six months in jail. His boisterous personality causes chaos in the routine and encourages the patients to believe in the concept of freedom. After a bit of mischief and a dooming conversation with a lifeguard, his behaviour settles... but not for long. What happens next shows the influence one person can have on a group of people, with McMurphy encouraging the patients to believe in themselves and their ability to leave the hospital. They go on a fishing trip, which gives the men a taste of what freedom and fun feels like. However, it all comes at a risk, one that McMurphy is aware of but results in a shift of power that saves the patients from a life of control.
Welcome back to Middle Earth. The world where elves, hobbits, orcs, wizards, and many other different creatures exist. After following the story of Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves in The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien, fast-forward a couple of years to when Bilbo is now about to celebrate his eleventy-first birthday. Remember that ring he found way back when? Well, turns out it's not a good ring to have hanging around. Particularly when Mordor's armies are getting stronger and their master wants it back.
It is a story that follows not a single hobbit, but four who, on their journey, find other companions along the way. Frodo is Bilbo's heir, so when Bilbo disappears at the end of his birthday celebrations, he leaves Frodo with his ring (with some convincing from Gandalf). It isn't long when things begin to kick off, with Frodo leaving with Samwise Gamgee in tow, and then is accompanied by his two other hobbit friends Meriadoc (Merry) Brandybuck and Peregrin (Pippin) Took. Four unlikely hobbits finding themselves in the more danger than they could ever have imagined. And no, that danger does not involve the absence of second breakfast!
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.