Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Synopsis: My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black–black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.
~ “I was trying so hard to find the single pivotal moment that set my life on its path. The moment that answered the question, ‘How did I get here?’ But it’s never just one moment. It’s a series of them. And your life can branch out from each one in a thousand different ways. Maybe there’s a version of your life for all the choices you make and all the choices you don’t.” ~
Okay. I know what you’re thinking. Not another doomed teen romance. I usually shy away myself from this genre. I still tear up when I think of Love Story, by Erich Segal, and I have yet to read The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green. There was something about this though that piqued my interest, and it turns out this is another book I’m adding to my all-time favorite YA reads list.
Eighteen-year-old Madeline Whittier has been isolated in her home for just about her entire life. She has SCID, which means she’s basically allergic to everything. Because it’s too dangerous for her to venture outside, let alone have any visitors who could inadvertently bring in outside contaminants, her only friends have been her nurse Carla and her mom. Her father and brother were killed in a car accident when she was a baby which adds a further tragic undercurrent. She takes classes online and is occasionally visited by a private tutor who has to go through a complicated decontamination process each time he enters the house. While this is admittedly an odd and unrealistic arrangement, it works for setting up the premise of the story which details Madeline’s slow awakening to the outside world, her questioning of her potential role in it, and of course, first love.
One of the things I loved about Maddy is that she’s biracial (Japanese-American mother and African-American father) and falls in love with a slightly younger white boy. In addition Carla is a Mexican immigrant. While these elements don’t become driving forces behind the story, they add some nice layers to it. I alway enjoy seeing diversity in books, especially those written for children and YAs.
The entire story is told from Maddy’s perspective. There are also plenty of drawings, doodles and email exchanges with Olly, which further bring her character to life. Interestingly, the illustrations are done by Daniel Yoon, Nicola’s husband and they’re so well done it made me feel even more like I was literally seeing things through Maddy’s eyes. Because of her isolation she’s lonely, yet never has felt sorry for herself. She has a loving relationship with her mother, who is also a doctor, and there are many touching moments between them. It isn’t until Olly moves in next door that Maddy begins to question if there could be something more to her life than being sequestered in her house. Because of her illness, Maddy is so different from the majority of us, yet she’s also someone we can relate to. A bookworm, her favorite novel is Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince which is a recurring theme throughout the book. Due to her situation, she’s a keen observer and immediately sees there’s far more to Olly than his original emo appearance suggests.
And then there’s Olly. It’s hard to even describe him. He has his own dysfunctional family issues he’s battling, yet despite this, or perhaps because if it, he’s drawn to the mysterious girl he glimpses through the window. He tenaciously persists in meeting her, and uses some imaginative and funny ways to go about doing so. I’ll never feel the same way about Bundt cake or handstands again!
While this is almost a case of insta-love, it’s one of the few I didn’t find annoying. This is partly because the characters are so darn appealing, and also because it’s realistically portrayed. Immediately curious about each other, they first communicate by writing notes on their windows, progress to IM, and finally meet in person. I found myself hoping throughout the story that somehow, someway these two could find a way to be together because they are obviously meant for each other.
There’s a plot twist about 3/4 of the way through that mixes things up. I’ll be honest and say if you choose to try this you’ll either love the ending or hate it. I happened to love it, although I wish there had been a little more exploration of the repercussions.
Everything, Everything reminds me of a modern day interpretation of Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty, only without evil fairies or witches. If you like fairytale retellings, I highly recommend this. I also think older teens will gobble this up. I stress older, because there is a fairly passionate scene between Maddy and Olly that is probably a little too graphic for readers under the age of fifteen or sixteen. There’s also quite a bit of profanity, mainly coming from Olly’s father. It’s entirely in keeping with his character, but it may be a bit much for younger readers.
This is a compelling read which I finished in less than two hours. My poor husband wandered into the room where I was reading a few times only to have me shush him and wave him away. Nicola Yoon has crafted a charming tale of not only love and loss, but also when it’s right to hold on, and when it’s time to let go. It will make you laugh, and if you’re like me it will also make you cry. It’s a story that will have you believing that maybe love can conquer all. And finally, this book and it’s characters will linger in your mind long after you finish the last page.