Title: Everything, Everything (2015)
Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 320 pages
Review: For the first eighteen years of her life, Maddy Whittier has been cooped up at home, 24/7 365. She suffers from Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), which basically means that she’s allergic to everything and an allergic reaction could very well be fatal. Apart from online, she only interacts with her doctor mum, and her nurse Carla. When a family moves in to the house next to theirs, Maddy gets to know Olly, a literal boy-next-door with a penchant for parkour and high places. Suddenly, living her life just like this seems to not be enough anymore…
The idea behind this book really caught my attention. This is such a unique disease—approximately one in a million, literally—and it’s great to see authors taking on new challenges and bringing in new things instead of recycling the same things over and over again (cancer, depression, grief, loss, suicide, etc.). Not that those things aren’t important, of course, but there are plenty of books written on those subjects, and this one is new.
I was surprised by how much I liked Maddy. I mean, I wasn’t expecting to dislike her, certainly, but I also very rarely actively want to be a YA main protagonist’s friend, but I definitely wanted to with this one. Maybe it’s having experienced what she has experienced, but Maddy is strong and kind-hearted, with enough curiosity about the world that I find endearing. I really enjoyed her relationship with her mum (at least at first), Carla, and Olly, too.
This is a book where for once I didn’t care at all that the girl pretty much insta-loved the guy, whereas normally, that kind of thing would really turn me off. Given Maddy’s unique circumstances, it’s definitely understandable that she would fall for Olly, the one decent guy she actually got to see in real life. For what’s it worth, it surprisingly didn’t feel unnatural or forced at all. Olly is such a sweetheart, and I liked that he, too, came with his own set of problems that he had to work on his own.
The plot twist nearing the end surprised the living daylights out of me. I didn’t see it coming until the very last minute, and it felt so completely out of the left field that I had to take a moment to process it before I continued reading. Did I like it? That’s a harder question to answer. It did feel a bit like a cop-out from Yoon, and I agree with what other book bloggers have said that it cheapens the story somewhat.
Because of this, the ending didn’t quite satisfy me. There were too many things I needed to see before I could accept that it was The End, and some of these things were for Maddy’s mother to suffer some consequences for what she did (i.e. child abuse) and for Maddy to actually deal with her issues before jumping into a relationship. What happened was supposedly so traumatic for her, but she seemed to just brush it off and move on, which I didn’t think was realistic.
That being said, I liked the focus Yoon put on distinguishing between ‘being alive’ and ‘actually living life’. So often we tend to take things for granted—things as simple as walking on the grass, feeling the breeze, holding hands—not realising that to some people in the world, these things are a luxury. This is a great message, despite the unsatisfying ending.
Overall I found Everything, Everything to be an engaging, at-parts dramatic novel that will keep you turning the pages until the end. I read it in one sitting and greatly enjoyed the illustrations incorporated into the pages—apparently they were all done by Yoon’s husband!