Teen Book Reviews: All the Bright Places and Thoughts & Prayers

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from two teens who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Reviewed by Anja J.

This book had me in tears. If you ever have one of those feelings where you just want to read a book and cry, this is the book to pick off the shelf. I was able to finish this book within a week. The story starts off with Violet Markey standing on the ledge of the bell tower of her high school. It wasn’t until a boy, who goes by Finch showed up, did she stop thinking about what it would be like if she jumped. After this encounter, Finch takes an interest in why he found Violet on that ledge that day, and Violet wonders how it ended up being the school outcast and “freak” that basically saved her life. The two are then assigned together on a project that gives them a chance to answer their questions about one another and learn even more.

This story, however sad it may be, was beautifully written and explores the experiences of teenagers and mental health. The quick paced story had me smiling at many parts and borderline sobbing at others. As I teenager myself, reading this book significantly impacted me. It showcased the struggles of teenagers that know one really knows and how it can impact daily life. There are not many books written this spectacularly that focus on sensitive issues like these. Jennifer Niven worked wonders when she wrote this book as she intimately described these two characters and how they fit each other perfectly.

Reading this book gives an insight into how people can fall victim to their own minds. The feeling of being lonely in a crowded room or out of touch and control is perfectly demonstrated. The intrusive thoughts of death play a big role in this novel, and it is seen how Violet and Finch are each others tethers that keep each other going every day. Despite tragedy in the book, the writing is magnificent and the feelings that ignite in you while reading it will have you full of joy or borderline sobbing.

4 stars.

Thoughts and Prayers by Bryan Bliss. Reviewed by Ima T.

Thoughts and Prayers by Bryan Bliss, is an impactful novel of today’s world. It follows the perspectives of three teenagers — Claire, Eleanor and Brezzen, completely different people who seem to have nothing in common. Eleanor is a popular basketball player, Brezzen is a gamer, and Claire only has a few close friends. The one thing that unites them is that they all hid under the same set of stairs during a school shooting.

Every character deals with this issue in different ways, and this is what Bliss explores in the novel. Claire becomes a shell of her old self. While she was introverted before the incident, she turned into herself even more. Eleanor did her best to move on after the shooting, but she’s angry that none of the adults are doing anything to stop the jokes about the shootings. She experiences a lot of prejudice as well, since she is a feminist that none of the conservatives in town can relate to. Brezzen chooses to stay home, getting home schooled. He has to fight the battle of going back to school and feeling safe. The entire situation is very relevant nowadays, because of the constant barrage of news about school shootings.

I would highly recommend this book to kids in high school. It’s very impactful to read about kids who are the age of high schoolers, but struggling to understand the impact of the negative events that can destroy people’s lives. Claire, Eleanor, and Brezzen each provide different lessons that any reader can relate to, even if they are not a star athlete or avid gamer. This story gets even more relatable still because of the first hand perspective of each person. It’s interesting to see how differently they all view each other and the scenario since they all experienced the same thing at the same time. I would highly recommend Thoughts and Prayers to whichever reader wants to truly understand not only the horrors of school shootings, but the hope and resilience that can follow.

5 stars

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