(Image from Barnes & Noble)
Although she's eighteen, Madeline Whittier knows little of life beyond the walls of her home. Born with "baby in the bubble" disease (aka Severe Combined Immunodeficiency or SCID), she's allergic to nearly everything. Going outside could mean death. So, she doesn't. Madeline stays inside, studying with online tutors, socializing only with her nurse and her physician mother, and posting spoiler book reviews on her blog. It's a lonely existence, but one Madeline bears with reluctant acceptance.
That changes when a new family moves in next door to the Whittiers. Watching their movements from her window, Madeline becomes fascinated with Olly Bright, the family's teenage son. Always clad in black, he does Spiderman-like parkour moves, launching himself into secret places to get away from his father's alcohol-fueled rages. When Madeline and Olly start instant messaging each other, she discovers that her neighbor is not just physically skilled, but he's also funny, smart, and thoughtful. As much as Madeline looks forward to their chats, she longs to talk to Olly face-to-face. To feel his hand in hers, his lips on her skin. Of course, her mother would never allow such a thing. She'd have a coronary if she knew about the instant messaging. Madeline has never considered defying her mother-doctor, risking illness or worse to escape her confinement, but now? Now, it's all she wants.
Will Madeline break free, throwing caution to the wind in order to be with the boy she's coming to love? Or will she do the sensible thing and forget Olly ever existed? With her heart—not to mention her life—at stake, what will Madeline decide?
There's plenty to love about Everything, Everything, a debut novel by Nicola Yoon. To begin with, there's the kind of diversity that is often lacking in YA novels. Yoon, a Jamaican-American married to a Japanese-American, gives Madeline a mixed ethnicity (Japanese/African-American), which helps her stand out. I thought the token gay character who drops in at the end was a little much (Why was he even in the story?), but I like that our heroine is bi-racial and it's just a fact of life for her, no big deal. I also enjoyed the peeks we get into her bright, engaging personality via lists, book reviews, lists, drawings (by David Yoon, the author's husband), and diary entries. These snippets perk up the narration, moving the plot along in a fast, fresh manner. The growing relationship between Madeline and Olly is also sweet and fun. I found all of these elements appealing. My only real complaint with the novel is with the ending. With little foreshadowing, the conflict's resolution comes out of nowhere. And yet, the big twist didn't surprise me at all, as I've seen it done before. Yoon's wrap-up, thus, felt like a rushed cop-out. In fact, it kind of soured the whole book for me. Despite that, Everything, Everything really is pretty enjoyable. It's the sweet, swoony kind of read teens will definitely get into (my 13-year-old daughter adored it). Judging by the rave reviews the novel is getting all over the book blogosphere, I'm the only one who felt a little gipped by this one. Ah, well. I can deal.
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (no F-bombs), violence, and mild sexual content
To the FTC, with love: I received an e-ARC of Everything, Everything from the generous folks at Random House via those at NetGalley. Thank you!