All The Bright Places By Jennifer Nevin Is The “It” Young Adult Novel for 2015

All the Bright Places

Jennifer Nevin’s beautifully told All The Bright Places is the teen book to read in 2015.  It will be compared to John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park.  But this book stands on its own as a brilliantly crafted love story about two non perfect people who save each other with a non fairy tale ending.  Violet is dealing with incredible pain since losing her older sister in a car accident several months before.  She finds herself at the top of the bell tower at her school along with the school “freak” Finch.  Finch isn’t really sure why he is up there.  Maybe he will jump, but Violet distracts him and he talks her back off the ledge.  Everyone things she is the hero who saves the nut job boy who is always acting crazy when it is really the other way around.  Finch describes his life in times where he feels awake and others where he feels asleep.  It is an asleep day that he finds himself at the top of the tower.  But something about Violet brings him back.  He pursues this shy and troubled girl.  They start a project together where they are supposed to wander around Indiana and discover new things.  Violet won’t ride in a car.  Slowly Finch brings her out of her shell and they beautifully fall in love.  It is told in different points of view, alternating between Finch and Violet.  This is another swoon-worthly, YA love story.  Finch is right up there with Park and Augustus Waters.  Finch’s problems are very real and painful.  This is another read that will hollow you out.  It is gut wrenching and hopeful at the same time.  Nevin deals with very deep content from bullying to mental illness to suicide.  Everyone should read this!

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

What are your first impressions of Finch and Violet?

Discuss when Finch goes running to “outrun the words.”  Discuss the passage from page 63.

Discuss Finch’s awake vs. asleep.

Discuss when Finch distracts everyone from Violet dropping her books.

Why do you think Gabe Romero bullies Finch.  Why does it seem the school does nothing?

Explore their wanderings through Indiana.  Backyard Rollar Coaster

Discuss when Finch says, “the great thing about this life of ours is that you can be someone different to everybody.” pg. 34

Discuss how Violet and Finch’s relationship evolves throughout the story.

How did they change each other?

Discuss this passage,  “What if we could just cut out the bad and keep the good?  This is what I want to do with Violet – give her only the good, keep away the bad, so that good is all we ever have around us.”

Discuss “The cadence of suffering has begun.  I am in pieces.” pg. 297

Discuss Violet and Finch’s conversation about the black hole.

Read aloud and discuss Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Read out loud Finch’s email to Violet on page 327 and discuss the quotes from The Waves.

Discuss this passage, “Your hope lies in accepting your life as it now lies before you, forever changed.  If you can do that, the peace you seek will follow.” pg 349





Brilliant Debut Teen Novel In The Carnival At Bray!

The Carnival at BrayMaggie Lynch is not only the new girl in her high school, she is in a new country.  Her mother falls in and out of relationships with great frequency and takes Maggie and her sister, Ronnie, along for the ride.  This time she marries a man from Ireland and moves the family there.  Maggie misses her Uncle Kevin most of all.  He is a troubled musician from the Chicago scene.  The story takes place in 1993 and early 1994.  Kurt Cobain is still alive and his musical influence is everywhere.  Maggie has trouble finding friends in her new school.  She feels like she is messing up at every turn.  Then she meets Eoin who works at his aunt’s pub.  Eoin is one of those fantastic teen boy characters that young girl readers will fall in love with.  He reminds me of Gus in The Fault In Our Stars and Park in Eleanor and Park.  She falls hard for him.  When Uncle Kevin comes to Ireland for a visit, Maggie’s world starts to unravel.  This is a first novel for Jessie Ann Foley.  She is a finalist for the 2015 William C. Morris Young Adult Debut Novel Award.  I loved this book!  It is going on my list of favorite teen reads of all time.  The setting came alive and the characters were beautifully developed and described.  Many teen readers will relate to Maggie’s problems with friends, love and how losing a person you love can shake you to your core.  Also how a parent’s choices can make a stable life a challenge for a young person.  Like Rainbow Rowell and John Green, Foley is brilliant at capturing the feeling of what it is like to fall in love so completely.

Ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss Maggie’s relationship with her uncle.  Discuss how Kevin influenced her life and how that changed in the course of the story.

Discuss how the Smashing Pumpkins show changed her life.

Talk about music and artists that are meaningful to you. Do you have a favorite artist, group or album?

Talk about how Aine changes once she falls in love.  How does her friendship with Maggie change?

Why do you think Maggie did what she did with Paul.  Was it worth ruining her friendship?

Discuss how it is different to be a teen in Ireland than in America.

Have you ever been to a concert?  What was your experience like?  What artists would you like to see live?

Discuss how Maggie’s mother changed.  Why do you think her relationship changed with Colm?

Talk about when Eoin said to Maggie about being the person who would not hurt her.

How does Eoin compare with Paul?  How does he compare with other teen boy characters in books you like?

Discuss Maggie’s relationship with Dan Sean.  Is there anyone in your life like that?

Discuss this passage, “But then, she thought, looking up at the tiled ceiling to stop herself from crying, wasn’t that what growing up meant? Wasn’t it just a succession of actions and incidents where you break your childhood promises to yourself and do the very things you always said you wouldn’t do? And how many more promises would she have to break before she came out on the other side?”

Discuss when Maggie says this about her mom, “Why can’t mom be discreet about anything?  Why is it that everything she feels, she has to make everybody else feel it too?”