I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Also by this author: The Sun Is Also a Star
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on September 1st 2015
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Fiction, Illness, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320 •Format: ARC •Source: ALA, Publisher
This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.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.
“You’re not living if you’re not regretting.”-pg 186
Everything, Everything was quiet in its execution but deafening in its impact. It’s the story of Madeline Whittier, who lives in her white room with her white furniture in her white clothes and eats her white food. She’s trapped due to the fragile nature of her own body, struck with an auto-immune disorder that makes the outside world one giant disease. Madeline’s story is one of what ifs: What if she wasn’t sick? What if she could go outside? What if she could go to school like a normal kid? What if she could kiss a boy? While it’s not surprising that Madeline pushes the boundaries of her “protected” life in order to truly live (and mostly due to romance, in true YA fashion), what WAS astounding was how layered the novel was in its tragedy and message. The “what ifs” don’t stop when Madeline seeks some small amount of freedom, rather they multiply as the novel progresses, and the end of the novel had me aching for the butterfly effect potential for Madeline’s life had just one little thing gone differently.
Yoon’s writing is beautiful. It’s quiet without loosing its authority, and poignant without trying to seem self-important and pretentious (a major problem I had with the writing in The Fault in Our Stars). Maddie has spent her life observing life outside of her bubble, so she at times makes quite profound observations, and demonstrates a skilled self-awareness. This self-awareness and moments of self discovery make for some of the best quotes from the book:
Before him my life was a palindrome- the same forward and backward, like “A man, a plan, a canal. Panama or “Madam, I’m Adam.” But Olly’s like a random letter, a big X thrown in the middle of the word or phrase that ruins the sequence. – 162
It’s breathtaking to read about Madeline’s experiences with the outside world, as she reflects on how sheltered her life has been and how unacquainted with her own personality it’s left her, as there’s so many things about herself she hasn’t explored. She’s even unaware of what her fears are in many cases, as she hasn’t been confronted with much opportunity to be afraid in her vacuum sealed life.
The first half of the book is easy to review, as it follows typical “sick lit” plot structure: Protagonist is sick. Protagonist thus lives limited life. Protagonist falls in love. Protagonist begins to question if a sheltered life is worth living. Etc. The second half of the novel, however, is much harder to review without spoilers because there is a huge plot twist. I guessed the twist about halfway through the novel but its implications still shocked me even though I anticipated it coming (which I would argue is the mark of a great writer, being able to pull off such a twist and still leave readers speechless if they’ve managed to guess if beforehand). It’s such a nuanced and profound novel for a debut. Yoon made me hurt for the tragedy of what could have been, for a loss so intangible that it never existed in the first place.
But there’s no denying it now. I’m in the world.
And too, the world is in me. –196
Overall: Everything, Everything takes the overtired YA trope of “sick lit” and breathes new life into it with her beautiful writing and her powerful plot points revealed in moments of quiet observation and introspection. The narrative is also made stronger by short chapters with clever (and often telling) titles that capture specific moments of Maddie’s day rather than trying to encapsulate large frames of time, which makes her POV more powerful. While the book had a major twist (that I really enjoyed), there were some elements that didn’t flow smoothly in the framework of the novel: a few plot holes and inconsistencies, a lack of closure on some elements (which felt more convenient than purposeful), and a case of insta-love that can’t be ignored. However, Everything, Everything is a great reminder of how quiet YA can be powerful and among the 50+ books I’ve already read this year, I know this one will stay with me.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Goodreads Challenge