“Don’t judge a book by its cover”. This is a cliche that all of us have heard at least a few dozen times in our lives. All the Bright Places, by novelist Jennifer Niven puts a new twist to this old platitude by incorporating this theme into the story.
One of the protagonists, Violet Markey hides the depressed side of her by saying, “No one likes messy. They like smiling Violet. I wonder what Ryan would do if he knew Finch was the one who talked me [into not committing suicide] and not the other way around” (Niven 49). When Violet was on the bell tower to commit suicide by jumping off, she meets the infamous quirky Theodore Finch, who is known to be odd and abnormally fascinated by death and how it works, and it was he who talked her out of jumping. Everyone thinks that it was Violet who saved Finch (Theodore goes by his last name), as Violet puts on a fake persona that you would never expect to commit suicide. All of their classmates, teachers, and the counselor assumed there was no possible way that the ‘mentally-stable’ Violet could ever attempt suicide, however, they never stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, she was also fighting a battle internally. This shows that we can never ‘judge a book by its cover’.
Similary, even Amanda Monk, a seemingly ‘perfect and happy’ girl, is fighting a battle within: “‘If I didn’t think about [commiting suicide], I wouldn’t be [at this support group]’” (286). Again, it has always been assumed that she was this dumb, popular student that really didn’t care what anyone think, and everyone liked her, but obviously, that is not the case. Some might actually see her as one of the smaller antagonists of the story, because she is not exactly nice to Finch. I both agree and disagree — she did call Finch a freak a few times, but this isn’t enough to become an antagonist. What no one could have guessed was that she was also troubled. She has experienced name-calling, and actually has deep insecurities. It’s hard to believe that someone with so many friends could ever have attempted suicide. The theme ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is shown once more with this intriguing character.
The theme of this story has definitely applied to me. More than once I have judged someone based on the little knowledge I have of them after knowing them for only a while. It’s embarrassing to say that sometimes I assume things about people that are not necessarily true. For example, last year, there was a girl I knew who I never talked to. One time, when I saw her, I said, “Hello, how’s it going?”, and she kind of shrugged and walked away. I presumed it was because she wasn’t nice and just did not want to make light conversation with me, but now I know it was because she was actually quite shy back then and did not know how to react when I, a near stranger, said hi. It was more than half a year before I realized that I shouldn’t form my entire opinion of someone based on the one time I interacted with them.
This is a very important message that everyone should learn. We can never know what’s truly going on inside someone, and it’s horrible just to judge them by the part of themselves they put out to the world. Jennifer Niven put this concept in words beautifully, and I don’t think any of us will forget how significant the old saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ really is.