Madeline Whitter has become happily accustomed to the world she’s made for herself, a status invented out of necessity to salvage what’s left of her sanity and joy. It’s composed of a combination of Skyped-in tutors, clever alternate versions of board games, movie nights with her mom, and her many books.
Maddy’s pleasant demeanor is impressive considering she’s been diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), an illness she’s been stricken with since birth, believed that, if she takes a single breath of fresh air, she might die. Nonetheless, though, this is a fate Maddy’s accepted without much longing until the boy next door moves in.
This review contains spoilers and quotes from the book
Maddy and her mother, have the perfect mother-daughter relationship. They are all the other has since the death of her brother and father, both killed in a fatal car accident. Her physician mother and nurse Carla are Maddy’s only friends.
Dr. Mom has done everything in her power to redesign their home to be a bubble for her daughter’s safety. Despite never having felt the sun on her face or the grass between her toes, Maddy is a level-headed, picture-perfect child. She is obedient, doesn’t complain or sass her mom, gets excellent grades and is sincerely grateful for all she has. Madeline’s situation fits the frame of a modern-day princess trapped inside a castle. All she needs is a prince and luckily for her (and us), one just moved in next door. His name is Oliver.
A single breath more and my life will finally, finally explode.
—excerpt from Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything
When she and Oliver first lock eyes, I wouldn’t exactly call it love at first sight. But you can tell that at first glance, everything will change for Maddy and the feeling seems mutual for Oliver. Who knew all it took was a simple e-mail address scribbled onto one’s window to spark such a romance? The teens start to IM each other day in and day out, getting acquainted with everything about the another. Maddy learns of Olly’s less-than-picturesque homelife, partly by peering through her window, partly from the few details Olly offers willingly. He has a drunk, abusive father he wants nothing to do with, an angry sister and a mother whom he tries to protect. It isn’t long before Carla catches wind of the relationship and helps the two to meet for the first time.
When Maddy’s mom finds out, she’s furious. As a result, Carla is let go and the two lovebirds are cut off. But it’s too late. Maddy is willing to risk it all for her new discovery: love. Subsequently, the two run off in order to spend whatever time they might have together. To Maddy’s knowledge, if she were to go outside, she would only have a few days.
Consequently, she gets sick and is forced to return home. Incidentally, once she is back home again, we witness her become somewhat more like your typical teen: resentful of the circumstances set before her, her mom. Her world is rocked once again when a seemingly irreparable wedge is driven between the two after Maddy discovers a horrible secret her mother has been keeping from her. What will Maddy do if her already-small world is made even smaller? How can she keep living in a bubble now that she knows love?
He smiles and the dimple comes back. Cute.
—excerpt from Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything
Although I’m pretty selective about which YA novels I read, Everything, Everything did not disappoint. It’s an adorable coming-of-age story about a young girl who has to come to terms with her reality as she experiences love for the first time. There’s a bit of that “love against all odds,” dark cloud-like feeling you get from something like John Green‘s Fault in Our Stars but Nicola Yoon‘s premiere offering is quite unique indeed.
The quick pace of her writing is very appropriate for today’s Internet-focused, instant gratification climate. As a reader, you’re instantly drawn into Maddy’s headspace that is so expertly painted by Yoon. For that matter, Oliver is tall, dark, handsome, ripped, romantic and witty—all the things a teen heartthrob should be. Another nice touch is seeing Maddy’s doodles throughout the pages; they are the type of drawings one might see if Maddy were able to attend class any other girl her age.
Maddy’s lighthearted narrative voice is charming and magnetic. It’s awesome to see a female, bi-racial lead character in a young adult novel, too. I respected the fact that Yoon kept things realistic even until the ending. Like most stories, Everything, Everything isn’t just tied up in a neat, pretty bow. But as a reader, I can assure you Maddy and Oliver’s flirtation and blooming love will keep an ever-present smile on your face.
My only criticism of the book would be that a different type of ending could have sharpened the story’s significance. If Maddy had found a way to live triumphantly, overcoming her ailment, it would have made for a more inspiring tale for any young readers learning to live with a disability. Yet, I feel Yoon was simply trying to write a YA novel that could take a stand for diversity in the face of a larger audience, not to construct a symbol for anything. All in all, Everything, Everything is as cutesy as it was enjoyable to read.
I for one am excited to watch Everything, Everything on the big screen this summer
Check out the trailer below for the soon-to-be blockbuster based on Nicola Yoon’s book of the same name!