Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Rating: 5 Stars
It’s a hard concept to hold on to–the idea that there was a time before us. A time before time.
In the beginning there was nothing. And then there was everything.
Dear fellow Babblers,
As my blog and contacts within the book industry continues to grow I’ve become more and more of a Young Adult junkie. That being said, I’ve been reading more and more books on young love, teenage depression, and self-discovery. So you better believe it when I tell you that Everything, Everything makes it onto the 5 Star category! This beautiful debut novel from Nicola Yoon has earned a place alongside my shelf next to Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Lang Leav’s Sad Girls. These are the only three books which I have every given five stars to, which means they are in every way, shape and form a magnificently wonderful read! Any book that has me holding my breath at each page, holding a knot in my throat, and cringing at unlikely turns of events is a masterpiece in my book. Everything, Everything is beautifully written, evocatively vivid, and altogether the epitome of Young Adult.
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.
The thing is, this book is so typical of the Young Adult genre beyond all reasoning. Here, we meet yet again all the same themes, allusions, conflicts, personalities that we have already read in just about any other coming-of-age tale. There is a girl with an “illness” (SKID) whose name is Maddy. Her condition prevents her from ever leaving her house. As a result, she must live vicariously through the figures she meets in books and those she observes out her second floor bedroom window. The only one’s who really could possibly know she exists her mom and her nurse Carla. Anyone that visits Maddy, not that many people do for that matter, must pass through an air filter, agree to a medical examination, and may not touch She is homeschooled, has numerous pairs of white keds, and rarely concerns herself about her appearance. Who is there to impress anyway? Maddy has lived this way all her life, now entering the end of her high school years. She seems to be getting along just fine with her each day blurring perfectly into the next, not missing one Friday night dinner with her mom and Carla in their dining room, and never canceling movie or game night with her mom in the living room. But then the inevitable creeps into Maddy’s life: Olly.
One day she hears doors slamming and movement happening on the other side of her window. The life outside distracts her from her book and after a few moments she gives into her curiosity and moves aside the curtain to watch a family of four moving boxes in and out of the house next door. She immediately spots Olly wearing all black and climbing up the outside walls of the house. Maddy looks down at this mysterious boy and after a few moments lost in her own thoughts realizes that he is looking right back at her. This initial contact from afar immediately throws the life Maddy has thus far lead under the tight and rigid supervision of her broken, yet still loving mother in a downward spiral.
What begins as online pen pals, exchanging brief late night IM’s quickly turns to secretive, still non-touching visits organized by Carla behind Maddy’s mom’s back. Seemingly an innocent little friendship quickly becomes a complete and utter infatuation that breaks down the many layers separating Maddy from the life that she has lead as the sick girl to the life she wants, but is always reminded that she can’t have as the “normal” and healthy girl.
Olly is sexy, compassionate and deeply feels something for Maddy. It is obvious from the very beginning that his entrance into her life will be at once disastrous and transformative. He causes Maddy to question her condition and its validity. She goes as far as allowing him to hold her and even kiss her which is quite a big deal given the logistics of her illness. She could die if she steps outside even for a moment, at least, that’s what her mom has lead her to believe.
Maddy discovers things about herself when Olly is around and despite the harm that may come to her, she refuses to let this chance go. Now with a love interest penetrating into the very cores of her life she wants more of life. She wishes to see, breathe, experience everything the world has to offer, not just through books, films, or photographs but through contact. And she makes it happen.
The romance that spurts between Maddy and Olly remains a secret all until one night that Olly gets into a physical fight with his drunken father. Maddy ignores all precautions and pleads from her mom to stay put and instead runs out to check that he is alright. This is the moment that secrets become exposed and the relationship between Maddy and her mother falls apart, never to again be put back together.
From this night forward Maddy’s mom entraps her daughter within the confines of the house completely with absolutely no internet at night which means no more late night messaging sessions with Olly. However, now that Maddy knows who she can be with Olly, she no longer can stand who is by herself. This leads her to do the inevitable: runaway and take Olly with her. On a whim, the two take a plane ride to Hawaii for two nights. This romance could be just what cures Maddy from here rare, incurable illness. Or perhaps there is nothing to cure but an innocent heart? How can one yet tell? If all that Maddy knows about the world and herself has come from her mother who has already dealt with her own traumas, having lost a son and a husband, can one really say that she is living in this real world or her mom’s shattered world?
I will agree that the blossoming chemistry between Maddy and Olly happened a little to quickly to be considered believable (I mean, Hawaii, really? You live in Los Angeles for heavens sakes, why can’t you just go to the freakin Santa Monica pier?), but the charm and heartbreaking plot was altogether mesmerizing. I finished this book in two sittings and I’m waiting for more words to magically appear on the page so I don’t have to leave it behind and start a new book. This book is made up of sentence-long chapters and repeatedly interrupted by diagrams, drawings, lists, and scheduled made by Maddy herself. I loved this inclusion within the story because it made me feel more connected to Maddy, and observe how she changes from an acquiescent loyal daughter, to a stubborn and independent young woman. Throughout the entire novel Maddy comes off as relatable as he is a reader, a dreamer, you’re aberage teenager who wants more out of life than simply watching the world through her bedreoom window. Olly is the catalyst that makes the impossible happen. He is there to help, protect, and make her happy. She sees the world differently through his eyes and as there romance blossoms, there is no turning back for Maddy.
The contemporary young adult romance going on in this book was such a pleasure and while there has been much controversy surrounding this book given that SCID as a disease isn’t very well portrayed, I still loved it. I don’t feel like Yoon meant for this book to be about the disease but rather how romance can make the impossible, possible. I’m not one for movie adaptations, but I definitely think that, since I loved this book so much I just may try the movie. The Sun is Also a Star, also from Yoon is coming up soon on my TBR list and now that I’ve read and enjoyed Everything, Everything I have high expectations for this one.
(Book image credits go to Goodreads)