13 March, 2018

[Review] Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Series: N/A
Release Date: 1 September, 2015
Publisher: Random House Kids\Delacorte
Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Romance / Social Issues
ISBN: 9781101916407
Edition: audiobook
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Written: 24 February, 2018
Summary: Risk everything . . . for love.

What if you couldn’t touch anything in the outside world? Never breathe in the fresh air, feel the sun warm your face . . . or kiss the boy next door? In Everything, Everything, Maddy is a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world, and Olly is the boy who moves in next door . . . and becomes the greatest risk she’s ever taken.

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.

Everything, Everything will make you laugh, cry, and feel everything in between. It’s an innovative,  inspiring, and heartbreakingly romantic debut novel that unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, illustrations, and more.

See more by Nicola Yoon at her Website.

I known about this book for a while before I picked it up. I knew about about it, but had just shoved it onto my indeterminably long reading list without a second thought. Besides, through several conversations with colleagues, I’d worked out the ending for myself before I picked it up. Still, after reading Ms. Yoon’s second novel The Sun is Also a Star and enjoying it; I decided perhaps I should give Everything, Everything a try. As a precursor, I personally know nothing about SCID disease. Therefore I cannot determine if the book is an accurate or inaccurate portrayal of what people with SCIDs go through on a daily basis.

Madeline F. Whittier is a eighteen year old girl who has been trapped inside her house for the past seventeen years due to an incredibly rare disease, SCIDs. Basically, she’s allergic to everything in the world. Anything could be a trigger, so her mother has taken great lengths to keep her safe from the outside world. Everything comes to her shrink-wrapped, anyone who visits must submit a background check, medical records, and be decontaminated for an entire hour before they’re allowed to come in. Once they’re in, they’re not supposed to touch at all, just to be sure. Most of the time, the only people who occasionally come to see Maddy are her tutors.

Every day is the same for Madeline until the new neighbors move in. It’s during the day when she hears the moving truck, and she becomes fascinated with the people moving in. She sees a boy roughly her own age, his sister, mother and father. For a while she follows their movements, learning their schedules. It’s clear from the beginning that Olly’s home life is a bit of a rough thing. His father has a drinking problem and yells constantly at everyone in the family. Though Maddy tries to ignore Olly, she’s pulled into his life by his and his sister Kara’s attempt at bringing a bundt cake to the Whittier residence. The cake is refused, due to being uncertain what is in it and the fact that it might be compromised with an allergen. This of course doesn’t sit well with Olly’s father, but it gives a chance for Olly and Maddy to meet.

Using the mostly indestructible bundt cake, Olly puts on several shows for Maddy over the next few days. At first she tries to resist, but eventually she watches him. Soon, this grows into him giving her his email address via writing it on his window with a marker. Then the pair start emailing and IMing back and forth. With this new and almost forbidden contact for the outside world, Maddy slowly begins to grow away from her mother while growing more and more attracted to Olly. Eventually, the pair want to meet, and Maddy begs Carla, her day nurse, to let him visit. She insists that he could be decontaminated and everything. While Carla starts out saying no, she eventually caves, allowing Maddy and Olly to see each other. All of this is taking place behind Dr. Whittier’s back.

Of course nothing stays secret forever, and when Olly has a physical fight with his drunken father, Maddy breaks all the rules and runs outside through the airlock. Once outside, she startles everyone, including herself. Her mother, obviously panicked, becomes stricter, limiting her interactions on the internet to school hours, fires Carla for a different nurse, and generally becomes rather overbearing. Eventually Maddy decides to run away, and convinces Olly to go with her. The pair end up in Hawaii where they snorkel, enjoy the sun and sand, and just generally enjoy life for a day. This day ends with sex and Maddy getting sick. Due to her being rushed to the hospital and rescued by the staff at Maui Memorial.

When she returns, Maddy falls into a deep depression, listless after she’s recovered from the episode. She’s super frustrated with the fact that Olly saved her life since she was more than prepared to die. She just wanted to live one day with him outside and feels she can’t go back to living on the inside anymore. For months she ignores Olly’s emails until they eventually stop. It’s after they stop that she gets an email from the treating doctor in Maui who informs her that while she did have a viral attack, she doesn’t believe Maddy has SCIDs. Armed with this, Madeline confronts her mother who tries to convince her. She brings the information to Carla (who has been rehired) who says perhaps her mother is more broken than they thought after the death of her husband and son.

Maddy searches her mother’s office to find that all the files that she thought would have been meticulously kept are lacking any kind of actual diagnosis of SCID. She confronts her mother again, then runs outside of the house. Carla takes blood samples to a doctor that specializes in SCID and confirms that Maddy is, in fact, a healthy teenager, though her immune system is under-developed due to her mother’s actions. She spends the next few months working with the doctor on weekly check-ups and eventually leaves home to visit (and it’s implied she remains to live with) Olly, Kara, and their mother who left Olly’s father while he was at work one day.

Honestly, the book was a good read, though I’d spoiled it for myself by guessing about the illness being made up. While as stated above, I have no first-hand knowledge about SCIDs, I’ve seen several reviews noting about portrayal of the disease being less than accurate. The underlying plot of taking a risk is the best thing for you to do and love conquers all, I feel that Everything, Everything didn’t really live up to the hype that I was expecting. The novel holds its own as a cute love story, but I wouldn’t use it for any sort of representation beyond the diversity of the character cast.

Everything, Everything was made into a movie in 2016, so I might go back and watch the movie now that I’ve read the book. All in all, read this book if you want a cute teenage romance, but please recognize that portrayals may not be accurate.

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