Posted in Read

Book Talk: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (January 6, 2015)
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary
Interest: Student recommendation
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

Amazon          GoodReads

Synopsis (from the Book Jacket)

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might die, but every day he also searches for–and manages to find–something to keep him here, and alive, and awake.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school–six stories above the ground–it’s unclear who saves whom. And when the unlikely pair teams up on a class project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, they go, as Finch says, where the road takes them: the grand, the small, the bizarre, the beautiful, the ugly, the surprising–just like life.

Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself–a bold, funny, live-out-loud guy, who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet forgets to count away the days and starts living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is a heart-wrenching, unflinching story of love shared, life lived, and two teens who find one another while standing on the edge.

My Thoughts

I was a little nervous to pick this book up because I’d heard so many mixed reviews about it, but when three of my students told me I had to read it this semester, I decided it was time to finally just pick it up and see how I liked it myself. I am glad that I read it and didn’t just listen to some of the reviews on GoodReads.

When I heard that the book is about two teens who meet at the top of their school’s bell tower and then embark on a school project to explore their state together, I was immediately drawn in. There aren’t enough young adult books that talk about mental health issues, and I think these types of books are important–especially for teens.

I feel like Niven gives an honest portrayal of mental health in All the Bright Places. I definitely understand some of the reviews that question how she handles depression and suicide within her book, but I appreciate the fact that she doesn’t sugar coat it or glorify it (at least I didn’t feel she did). I know some people are upset with how she handles mental health in her book, but it is obvious why she handles things the way she does when you actually read the book, which I can appreciate. I think Niven was brave to write this book how she did; the ending becomes especially poignant after reading Niven’s author note at the end of the book. Do yourself a favor and make sure that you read this after you’ve finished the book, especially if you’re upset with the ending.

As far as the characters went, I was  a little disappointed in their development. I felt like I didn’t get to know who the real Finch actually was, but I guess that could have been the point. As a character, he was just so all over the place. I liked Violet’s character development much more, but I had a hard time relating to her and felt like too many of her decisions seemed childish. I think this is more a result of me getting older and struggling to accept some of the irrational decisions made by teen characters. I think I would have been able to relate to her much better when I was a teenager.

My biggest problem with this book comes in the form of the parents. I had an incredibly difficult time with both Violet’s and Finch’s parents, but especially with Finch’s mom. She becomes extremely worried at points only to become totally aloof at others. This seemed more like a convenient way to drive the plot (which created too many holes) than something that actually made sense.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I read it in just a few days and couldn’t put it down. Though it was predictable and unbelievable at times, I appreciate the author for writing this book the way she did (even if that’s not the most popular opinion).

Trigger Warnings/Flags: suicide/depression, sex, language

Rating

♥♥♥

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Posted in Live, Read, Teach

“Bless Your Heart!”

. . . Or some other iteration is what people say to me when I respond to their query: “What do you do?” “I teach high school English,” I always say (usually with a bright smile on my face).

I’m really proud of this part of my identity, and I rarely understand why people usually quip with something like, “God bless you! I could NEVER work with teenagers. . . . ” Which leaves me to wonder, why not? Occasionally I ask them, but I never like to hear the answer to that question (which really should just stay in the rhetorical realm). I disagree 98% of the time with what the person says about some of my favorite people in the world (teenagers), and then I question why I’m still standing there listening and talking to them.

You see, I teach high school English. I teach a subject where building relationships is part of the curriculum. I teach a subject where I am lucky enough to get to know kids through their writing (remind me of this when I have a stack of essays to grade) and their reading habits. They often tell me things they haven’t even told their parents or their siblings or their best friends. They show me how empathetic and compassionate they are. They show me their hopes, their dreams, and their passions. They show me their struggles. They show me their heartbreaks. They show me their deepest fears, and they come to me when, God forbid, those fears are realized. And then, with time, they show me their resilience and general continued optimism with the world, even after their life has shattered. Sure, they sometimes tell me things I would have been just fine never knowing, but even in these moments I’m reminded of the fact that I have the best “job” in the world. I’m in the business of building relationships. These teenagers that people say they couldn’t possibly put up with constantly prove to me that I couldn’t possibly put up with not having them in my life. They truly are some of the coolest people I know.

Teach. Read. Live.

Teach
Teaching is not an easy career. I know people laugh at me sometimes when I say this, but I had no idea how difficult teaching would be as a student considering a career in teaching. And I would guess anyone who isn’t already a teacher has no idea how difficult teaching is. It is extremely challenging. I want to share my struggles and my successes. I want to show people what it takes to be a teacher. I want to discuss teaching with other teachers and community members (because, really, I never actually can get enough of talking about teaching). I want to learn and try new things and also share what I have learned along the way. A large part of this blog will be dedicated to my life as a teacher: the beautiful; the good; the bad; and even the ugly (hey, politics, I’m looking at you!). I’m starting a new chapter in my fifth year teaching (sixth if you count my year of student teaching, which I often do because I did all the things I do now, just for free). I really wish I had started blogging before this past school year because it really has been my best teaching year yet, but I guess it’s better late than never. I am taking on the challenge of teaching AP Literature for the first time next year. This blog will be as much a reflection of that journey as it will be a resource (at least I hope) for others. In addition, I teach ESL and, currently, Contemporary Literature (my absolute favorite!).

Read
I don’t remember a time in my life when I couldn’t read and wasn’t currently reading a book. Seriously! I started reading abnormally early (I was three), and I haven’t stopped since. I want a platform where I can explore and expand on my relationship with books and reading. I want a place that can serve as a resource for other teachers, for their students, and for my own students. I just want to talk about reading! I mean, if I’m not talking about teaching, the other thing I most want to be talking about is reading. I really do believe they go together (like a horse and carriage . . .). I read a lot of YA literature, probably more than is healthy for a 30 year-old to admit, but hey! it’s for the kids! HA! I also love reading literary fiction, adult fiction (especially contemporaries), new adult, science fiction, fantasy, psychological thrillers, historical fiction, nonfiction, self help, graphic novels . . . OK, OK, I admit it! I like to read pretty much everything. And I hope to share a little bit of everything with you as well.

Live
This last category is something that has taken a backseat to the first two categories the last seven or so years of my life. I have been so hyper-focused on establishing my career and becoming what I consider “well-read” that I’ve neglected life a little bit too much. Time to fix that. I am hoping to improve my life by writing about it. I want to talk about psychological well-being (I was a psych major after all). I want to talk about stress. I want to talk about health. And exercise. And food. And body image. I want to talk about simplifying things and trying to be more mindful in my life. I want to be able to practice gratitude when things get tough without even needing to think about it like I used to before “adulting” happened. I want to talk about my dreams and future goals and my introverted tendencies that sometimes get in the way of chasing my dreams. I want to talk about anxiety (a recent development) and insomnia (not so recent). I want to talk about self help, continuous improvement, and adulting (Peter Pan was onto something, kids . . . Never grow up!). I want to talk about my hobbies and favorite things. I want to talk about decor and clothes. I want to talk about finance. I want to share more about my beliefs in life and reflect back on my own education . . . You get the picture. Essentially, I want to talk about life in hopes that it will help me be better at lifing (a word I am pretty sure I just made up right now).

 

I hope you’ll introduce yourself if you’re reading this, even if you already know me. You see, I’m in the business of building relationships, and I want to have a relationship with anyone who reads this. Somehow. Someway. Leave a comment! Who are you? What do you do? What are your passions?

I hope you’ll stick around. I hope you’ll enjoy your stay. And I hope you’ll learn a thing or two about yourself (or for yourself) along the way.

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P.S. I am a fan of the fragment and its affect on voice. If that bothers you, you actually may not want to stick around. I use it. On purpose. Often. Promise.