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All the Bright Places | a few problems I had...

By 14:00:00 ,

This post is a bit of a weird one. I had a panic attack today. I haven't had one in years.
It scared me.

So because I'm thinking about this today and there's no way to avoid it, I thought I'd finally put together some thoughts on All the Bright Places. This is going to be spoilery, starting right after the blurb below. And by spoilery I mean nothing's off limits. I usually never do this but I think this book needs to be looked at in its entirety. The book deserves it, and I think it's important.

So... Beware spoilers from this point forward!

In case you haven't read it or need a reminder:

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

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

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is what I wrote on GoodReads upon finishing AtBP:

"I don't know if I'll ever be able to review this, but I loved it. I'm really upset and I feel like I'll never stop crying, but I loved it. P.S. Everyone who told me to have tissues at the ready: Thank you for taking care of me."
Obviously I liked it, right? But I also think there are some things kind of wrong with it, and there are some really important points to discuss here.

The Depression is (too) Real

All the Bright Places was triggering, in a way. I could identify with so many things - with both characters, really. Violet's depression (at least that's what it seemed like to me) was so real. But she's grieving, it's complicated, there's no diagnosis. People give her time but I think the support she needs isn't there.

And poor, poor Felix. I hurt. Reading about Felix hurt. It's obvious from the start that things are not okay, and people in his life should be able to see that. Felix holds on to what he can to keep him alive, and that something very quickly becomes Violet. But as with a lot of mental illnesses people tend to keep them on the inside, hide them behind a facade. And because of that, he dies. And it hurts because it's preventable. I don't know if you've ever thought about suicide other than to go "it's a horrible thing, and it's unfair," in fact I hope you haven't thought about it more than that. The thing is, for someone who commits suicide, it's just that being alive is actually worse than facing the fear of death that all of us have. That's a frightening, upsetting, horrible thought. Is it realistic? Yes, of course it is. This happens. And with this book, I knew it was coming, I'm sure we all did. And yet no one in his life could recognise Felix needed help.

This doesn't give me a lot of hope. All the Bright Places took it away. It's almost like Felix is just there to help Violet, to 'heal' her from the depression that comes from losing her sister. Of course with Felix it turns out she now has another reason to feel guilty: he dies. After she tells him to get help. I don't like it. It seems like a bad thing that she wanted him to get help. It's not a bad thing.

Therapy, Medication, Family??

The thing is that the adults in this book suck. The counsellor - whatever his name is - kind of recognises Felix might have bipolar disorder. I mean - he knows something's wrong, right? He talks to Finch all the time. And bipolar disorder.. Depression can be a major part of it. Depression can make people do things they can't undo. Usually professionals are very good at identifying behaviours that are dangerous to the person - and they're sent to a doctor, a psychiatrist, medication comes into play... That's how it should go. So it upset me, that no one seemed to recognise how bad things were.

I remember the scene where Felix goes to the support group meeting - and it's kind of clear he doesn't believe medication helps. I understand that a person can believe that, of course. But when no one clarifies on it, and no one else talks about medication in the book, it's... upsetting. So, I'm offering a point of criticism: medication is important, and I think it's dangerous not to include it, to talk about it, to discuss its' merits. I completely understand that this is one book, and it shouldn't matter so much, but I really think it does. There's a stigma to medication and it's hard to take meds anyway. It's scary. There are side effects. It means accepting you're sick. It's unbelievably frightening. It's a problem - some people just don't take their meds, or stop taking them before they can take effect.

A lot of young adults struggle with mental health, and I feel like if they read this book, it may affect their opinions. That's why I think medication does need to be discussed in a positive light - because it can save lives.

This is getting too long but I have a lot of feels. Overall, I still loved this book - it's rare to find characters whose depression feels real. It's a really hard thing to portray successfully, and mostly that worked so well in AtBP. But that doesn't change the fact that I'm getting a kind of a pessimistic message back from it.
Have you read Bright Places? What did you think? I'm genuinely curious - and I promise I won't snap at you if your opinion differs from mine ♥

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