–If you have not read the book, avoid soilers by only reading the bold text–
Ahh, this was everything I expected it to be and more.
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’m allergic to the world. Anything can trigger a bout of sickness…and so I stay on SCID row. I don’t leave my house–have never left my house.
Everything, Everything is a story about Madeline, a girl who has SCID, meaning if she ever was to step outside her house, the unfiltered air, someone’s perfume, something normally edible for most people but she ingests could trigger symptomatic attacks that could potentially kill her.
Basically she’s hypersensitive to all things that surround her and because of this disorder she’s never had contact with the outside world or other people aside from her mother and personal nurse, Carla. So for the past seventeen years, everything in her life has been a constant. Completely the same. Up until the day a family moves in next door and she meets Olly. Olly is everything she’s never felt before: healthy, reckless, alive. After their email and instant messaging correspondence, they build a strong friendship and Madeline begins to want more. She doesn’t want to just breath, she wants to be alive.
Even though I skimmed several reviews, I went into this knowing nothing aside from Madeline’s condition. So I’m going to try to give you guys the same courtesy of reading this book without knowing too much as well. Vague I’ll try to be; short and concise I probably won’t.
Firstly, I want to mention that I have a weakness for well-done, cohesive vignettes. I’m an instant fan of books that include them. The email and IM text bubbles, David Yoon’s illustrations, and humorous charts were tastefully included and contributed to illustrating Madeline’s perspective and story. The imaginative lists and graphs Madeline made were the pieces of comedic relief necessary every time another somewhat heavy episode (like the sad reality of how limited Madeline can experience life in comparison to other individuals) appeared. Overall, the writing was beautifully simplistic.
I’ve read many more books than you. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve read. I’ve read more. Believe me.
I know this wasn’t the case for every reader, but for me, I thought Nicola Yoon used a very interesting technique where she tried to make the reader feel instantly connected to the narrator. Madeline is an avid reader and Tumblr book blogger, which makes her cool in my book. I thought her one sentence spoiler book review drafts (that was a mouthful, sorry) interspersed throughout the book really set the mood and reflected her thoughts nicely. They also were interesting since most were of books I’ve already read before. Madeline was witty, and I liked her narration. Her thoughts were poetically constructed and well-fitting for a young literary intellect.
Also, I was expecting there to be a ton of angst. I mean, if I was in Madeline’s shoes, I’d probably be bitter, but Madeline accepted her innate illness with grace and positivity, which was a nice surprise. Another thing about Madeline that I’m sure you’ve already noticed via other reviews and the tremendous hype that followed this book prior to release: Madeline is half-Japanese half-African American. I have to say that if you’re expecting some dynamics with the diversity view of this book, you’ll be disappointed. Everything, Everything mostly focuses on Madeline and how she deals with SCID, instead.
Speaking of SCID, many of you are probably curious if the illness plays a major role and is elaborated in the story. Will you get to learn more about SCID? The answer is no. However, for me, this wasn’t a big issue since Yoon makes a point several times that SCID is received differently by everyone. The disease is complex in that the triggers and symptoms vary between each individual. Plus, Madeline, the bubble girl, has never experimented or been exposed to many things since she and her mother discovered SCID when Madeline was really young. For me, it’s totally justifiable as to why she doesn’t know much about the disease herself and therefore the disease wasn’t explained thoroughly.
However, I wasn’t that happy with Madeline and Olly’s fast pace, considerably instalove-like romance. It’s not the instant attraction part that really bothered me because, overall, I thought their relationship developed well. It was the apparent change in Madeline due to their relationship growth that made me have second thoughts on her character. Being someone that is new to dating and relationships myself, thinking realistically, I was unable to grasp how Madeline could just fall in love so easily with her first boyfriend, and only in a span of a couple of months (at least I think that was the time span). All I could think was “No, Madeline!! It’s too fast!” However, Yoon does try to calm the readers’ concerns by making Madeline’s meter of interest starting with a case of “hysterical abdominal rhopalocera,” the telltale signs of having an extreme fondness towards another individual, aka the famous butterflies. So for those small segments that Madeline admits that her fondness to Olly is probably a short-term case of like instead of love, I forgive Madeline.
However, it wasn’t until this moment when I started to have some major qualms about her character:
He leans his forehead against mine. His breath is warm against my nose and cheeks. It’s slightly sweet. The kind of sweet that makes you want more.
“Is it always like that?” I ask, breathless.
“No,” he says. “It’s never like that.” I hear the wonder in his voice.
And just like that, everything changes.
It was the very “everything changes” that began to bother me so much. I don’t care if there’s instalove, love triangles, or even love polygons, I can’t tolerate it when a girl feels like the world has changed because of a boy even if he’s a good influence, dreamy, or perfect. From that moment on, Madeline states that she realizes she could do so much more with her life, even with dealing SCID, because of Olly. Just a few encounters and conversations with him has changed her entire world. And opened so many doors. It just seems a little too dramatic and unreal-especially for a YA contemporary. So for that, I am deducting a star. Sure, someone can make you a better person, but for your universe to change… I’m just not a great believer of the all consuming love type of romance, let’s say.
Also there were certain philosophies I didn’t quite agree with, which kind of led to how I didn’t completely buy the entire message of this book. The “mothers are forever” comment really made me feel like Yoon perhaps has a good relationship with her mother and her own daughter, but that’s not the case for everyone. I don’t really have a great relationship with my mom and couldn’t relate to that. And the “Everything’s a risk. Not doing anything is a risk.” is something I don’t really believe in either. However, this all depends on the reader and can be debatable so I didn’t really consider it as a flaw. These ideas just didn’t click with me.
Something else I noticed was how highly improbable this story would be if it were true; it’s not like most realistic fiction. It’s rather unrealistic. There were times I was hit with unbelievable waves of disbelief but I totally understand the beauty of imagination and fiction. The plot twist (I didn’t want to bold this because I feel like it will be a bigger shock if people that haven’t read this book aren’t aware of it) was just so crazy; it sure was a satisfying one though. I also found it strange that Olly would be willing to give a complete stranger his email address after she was staring through his window and technically stalking him. I don’t think I’d be as brave as him in reality. There was also the easy application of a credit card without Madeline’s mother discovering. It seems unreal that it was that quick and easy for a young adult with no credit to apply for one and get approved after the first application-but what do I know, I’ve never tried applying for one myself… And then the sudden trip to Hawaii. As nice and fluffy those getaway chapters were, I couldn’t help but think how insanely unrealistic they were as well. Yet, as I said, these small things weren’t deal breakers, just a few things I considered.
The final verdict: I absolutely loved Everything, Everything despite the minor issues I had with it. I think it’s a great book for those wanting a quick page-turner. And one that explores an unique illness but doesn’t require tears from the reader. Beautifully constructed with fascinating illustrations; I definitely recommend.
Check out Everything, Everything and give it a read.
Guest review contributed by Xingsings. This blogger strongly believes in interaction in the book community. She puts out bookish memes, reviews, and themed articles. Beware of falling words and large imaginations.