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.
Tell Me More: It’s always difficult to talk about a book like Everything, Everything immediately after reading it. I sped through the novel over lunch break this past Friday, unable to stop reading, but with mixed feelings the entire time. Perhaps that’s the strength of the novel, that it makes the reader feel as conflicted as Maddy does, that it makes us question what the right path is for Maddy to take.
At the start of the book, Maddy doesn’t feel like she has any other path but the one that helps her manage her illness. She’s isolated, but for her mother and nurse, and lives her life as best she can with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID). An air lock keeps all particles larger than 0.3 mm away from her, and Maddy has never touched grass or a rock, much less another human being. No one could fault her for finding Olly and his family interesting, or for wishing she could go outside and befriend Olly.
I’ll admit that I didn’t find Olly very compelling, but I was invested in Maddy’s happiness. So when she pleaded with Carla to let him in, I sighed and smiled, and when she started to develop an inevitable crush on Olly, I hoped for the best. Nicola Yoon does a wonderful job at relating Maddy’s awkwardness and hope in non-prose formats, like emails and lists and sketches. Those interludes didn’t take away from the narrative, and helped balance out some of the text’s more fanciful turns of phrase.
The plot itself was a little less developed than I would have liked, and some of the decisions Maddy makes feel a tad too rushed and impulsive, even for a sixteen-year-old who’s never experienced the real world. I wasn’t quite sold on the romance, so it was hard for me to be swept away by their emotions. I was far more interested in the relationship between Maddy and Carla, because it felt like Maddy trusted Carla more than anyone else in her life. The parallels between Maddy and Carla’s daughter were heavy-handed at times, but they made more sense than much of the rest of the book. Maddy’s mother was almost as lightly developed as Olly, which is strange because she is a major influence on Maddy’s life. Maddy is biracial, half-Japanese and half-African-American, and I wondered about how her cultural identity might have played into her life.
Don’t get me wrong: I did enjoy Everything, Everything for what it was, and I adored Nicola Yoon’s prose and its ability to make Maddy’s life a tangible experience. But the risks weren’t as balanced as I would have hoped, and the supporting characters might have felt less startling in their changes given some more page time to grow or reveal other parts of themselves.
The Final Say: Everything, Everything is worth picking up for the prose that Nicola Yoon handles so deftly, though some readers may just end up wanting more from some of its characters.
Nicola Yoon grew up in Jamaica (the island) and Brooklyn (part of Long Island). She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and daughter, both of whom she loves beyond all reason. Everything, Everything is her first novel.