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BOOK REVIEW: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

| 20 August 2015 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

Penguin Random House UK Children’s
August 2015
Paperback, £7.99 GBP
Reviewed by Aly Locatelli



My disease is as rare as it is famous. It’s a form of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, but you know it as “bubble baby disease.” Basically, I am allergic to the world. Anything can trigger a bout of sickness. It could be the chemicals in the cleaner used to wipe the table that I just touched. It could be someone’s perfume. It could be the exotic food I just ate. It could be one, or all, or none of these things, or something else entirely. No one knows the triggers, but everyone knows the consequences. According to my mom I almost died as an infant. And so I stay on SCID row. I don’t leave my house, never left my house.

Madeline Whittier is severely sick. She has never been outside of her house – never smelled the fresh air, never touched real grass, never know what the sun feels like on her skin – and she’s okay with that. As someone who has accepted her sickness and its lack of cure, Madeline knows that outside equals bad.

But that was before Olly and his family moved in next door. Olly is eccentric and different, and with an abusive, alcoholic father, he decides to befriend Madeline – for better or for worst. At first, he tries to visit her at home, but when that fails epically, he starts writing notes on his bedroom window, and then the two teenagers move onto IMing:

Madeline: What color are your eyes?
Olly: blue
Madeline: Be more specific, please.
Olly: jesus. girls. ocean blue
Madeline: Atlantic or Pacific?
Olly: atlantic. What color are yours?
Madeline: Chocolate brown.
Olly: more specific please
Madeline: 75% cacao nutter dark chocolate brown

An unlikely friendship starts to form, as the two teenagers couldn’t be more different: Madeline is studious and constantly craves knowledge about the world they live in, whilst Olly is more active and a big fan of parkour. When Madeline’s nurse, Carla, finds a way for Olly and Maddy to meet, it seems almost too good to be true.

“You’re different than I thought you would be,” I blurt out.
He grins and a dimple forms just under his right eye. “I know. Sexier, right? It’s OK, you can say it.”
I guffaw. “How do you manage to carry around an ego that size and weight?”
“It’s the muscles,” he shoots back, flexing his biceps and raising a single comical eyebrow.

But then Madeline’s mother discovers that Olly has been in the house. Not only does she ban Madeline from ever seeing or talking to him again, but she also fires Carla, Madeline’s nurse and closest friend. Nothing lasts forever.

Panic sends my heart racing. “Carla, please. Please don’t take him away from me.”
“He’s not yours!”
“I know—”
“No, you don’t know. He’s not yours. Maybe he has time for you now, but he’s going to go back to school soon. He’s going to meet some girl, and he’s going to be her Olly. You understand me?”

But Madeline isn’t willing to give up. Ever since she met Olly, her desperate need to meet the world has amplified, and nothing is going to stand in her way. She’s decided that if she’s going to die, she would rather do it outside, with the boy she loves, than locked on SCID row (her house).

Ever since Olly came into my life there’ve been two Maddys: the one who lives through books and doesn’t want to die, and the one who lives and suspects that death will be a small price to pay for it. The first Maddy is surprised at the direction of her thoughts. The second Maddy, the one from the Hawaii photograph? She’s like a god—impervious to cold, famine, disease, natural and man-made disasters. She’s impervious to break. The second Maddy knows that this pale half-life is not really living.

Upon finishing, Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon was a four-to-five star read. Later, I figured that was only the case because, as a fast, easy read, I’d finished it in one day and was drowning in all the feels.

After thinking long and hard about it, though, I realised that, actually, Everything Everything was a great book… until the last 15% or so. When I started reading it, I had accepted that there wasn’t going to be a happy ending, or if there was, it would be bitter-sweet. However, the ‘plot twist’ ruined the story for me and felt like a last-minute add-in to give Madeline and Olly the ending they deserved. Not only that, but it also annoyed me that, once again, a girl learns to live because of love. Madeline had a yearning for the outside world even before Olly came into the picture, and I wish that had been used — I wish Madeline had decided to go outside because she wanted to, not because of a boy.

But the first 70-or-so-% portrayed a wonderful story of first times: Madeline’s first time meeting a boy, speaking to him online and meeting him person; Madeline’s first time believing that she could really live if only she tried. I adored the friendship Olly and Maddy cultivated, and the humour is ever present, which made an otherwise heavy, dark read incredibly light and fluffy – something I appreciated. Another thing I enjoyed was Madeline’s Dictionary – each word, and her personal definition for it, made me laugh and smile. Madeline’s character was complex yet incredibly relatable, and I found myself cheering her on every step of her journey.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

21. A reader, a writer, a reviewer and a full-time sloth lover. I am addicted to coffee and my laptop, and love reading especially when it's rainy outside.

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