Authors: Jennifer Niven
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF
This is a work of fiction. All incidents and dialogue, and all characters (with the exception of the creators of the World’s Largest Ball of Paint and the Blue Flash and Blue Too roller coasters), are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Niven
Jacket photographs (flowers) copyright © 2015 by Neil Fletcher and Matthew Ward/Getty Images
Hand-lettering and illustrations copyright © 2015 by Sarah Watts
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
by Dr. Seuss, TM and copyright © by Dr. Seuss Enterprises L.P. 1990. Used by permission of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York. All rights reserved.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
All the bright places / Jennifer Niven.—1st ed.
Summary: “Told in alternating voices, when Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—both teetering on the edge—it’s the beginning of an unlikely relationship, a journey to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of the state of Indiana, and two teens’ desperate desire to heal and save one another.”—Provided by publisher Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 978-0-385-75588-7 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-385-75589-4 (lib. bdg.) —
ISBN 978-0-385-75590-0 (ebook) — ISBN 978-0-553-53358-3 (intl. tr. pbk.)
[1. Friendship—Fiction. 2. Suicide—Fiction. 3. Emotional problems—
Fiction. 4. Indiana—Fiction.] I. Title.
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The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places
Is today a good day to die?
This is something I ask myself in the morning when I wake up. In third period when I’m trying to keep my eyes open while Mr. Schroeder drones on and on. At the supper table as I’m passing the green beans. At night when I’m lying awake because my brain won’t shut off due to all there is to think about.
Is today the day?
And if not today—when?
I am asking myself this now as I stand on a narrow ledge six stories above the ground. I’m so high up, I’m practically part of the sky. I look down at the pavement below, and the world tilts. I close my eyes, enjoying the way everything spins. Maybe this time I’ll do it—let the air carry me away. It will be like floating in a pool, drifting off until there’s nothing.
I don’t remember climbing up here. In fact, I don’t remember much of anything before Sunday, at least not anything so far this winter. This happens every time—the blanking out, the waking up. I’m like that old man with the beard, Rip Van Winkle. Now you see me, now you don’t. You’d think I’d have gotten used to it, but this last time was the worst yet because I wasn’t asleep for a couple days or a week or two—I was asleep for
, meaning Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I can’t tell you what was different this time around, only that when I woke up, I felt deader than usual. Awake, yeah, but completely empty, like someone had been feasting on my blood. This is day six of being awake again, and my first week back at school since November 14.
I open my eyes, and the ground is still there, hard and permanent. I am in the bell tower of the high school, standing on a ledge about four inches wide. The tower is pretty small, with only a few feet of concrete floor space on all sides of the bell itself, and then this low stone railing, which I’ve climbed over to get here. Every now and then I knock one of my legs against it to remind myself it’s there.
My arms are outstretched as if I’m conducting a sermon and this entire not-very-big, dull, dull town is my congregation. “Ladies and gentlemen,” I shout, “I would like to welcome you to my death!” You might expect me to say “life,” having just woken up and all, but it’s only when I’m awake that I think about dying.
I am shouting in an old-school-preacher way, all jerking head and words that twitch at the ends, and I almost lose my
balance. I hold on behind me, happy no one seems to have noticed, because, let’s face it, it’s hard to look fearless when you’re clutching the railing like a chicken.
“I, Theodore Finch, being of unsound mind, do hereby bequeath all my earthly possessions to Charlie Donahue, Brenda Shank-Kravitz, and my sisters. Everyone else can go f— themselves.” In my house, my mom taught us early to spell that word (if we
use it) or, better yet, not spell it, and, sadly, this has stuck.
Even though the bell has rung, some of my classmates are still milling around on the ground. It’s the first week of the second semester of senior year, and already they’re acting as if they’re almost done and out of here. One of them looks up in my direction, as if he heard me, but the others don’t, either because they haven’t spotted me or because they know I’m there and
Oh well, it’s just Theodore Freak
Then his head turns away from me and he points at the sky. At first I think he’s pointing at me, but it’s at that moment I see her, the girl. She stands a few feet away on the other side of the tower, also out on the ledge, dark-blond hair waving in the breeze, the hem of her skirt blowing up like a parachute. Even though it’s January in Indiana, she is shoeless in tights, a pair of boots in her hand, and staring either at her feet or at the ground—it’s hard to tell. She seems frozen in place.