This book caught my eye because, well, because I’m pretty sure you can’t be into YA at the moment without having caught wind of Nicola Yoon’s novels. Both of them have been huge hits, and this novel Everything, Everything has even been made into a movie starring Amandla Sandberg. I just had to read this book and see what the fuss was about, and I get it. I really do. I read this book in less than a day, and if I hadn’t had things to do, I would have read it in one sitting. Madeline is captivating, and the story, and Nicola Yoon’s writing, swallowed me whole.
Madeline is 18 years old, but she spends every day cooped up in her completely clean, safe, cocoon of a house. Why? She has a condition called SCID, which means that she is effectively allergic to the world. One step outside, and something could trigger all sorts of horrible reactions. The world is literally out to kill her. Madeline is content with her life, which consists solely of her mother, her nurse Carla, her Skype tutors, and her books – that is, until a family move in next door. Olly is energetic, running up walls and jumping onto the roof; he is kind, protecting his mother from his abusive father; he is funny, communicating with Madeline by mimed conversations through the window and then through online messages. However, the more Madeline gets to interact with the outside world, the more she wants to be in it, and she has to decide whether life is better lived safely, or fully.
Madeline is such a wonderful main character and her voice is so strong that you feel like you know her. I love the way that Nicola Yoon has various different types of chapter in the book, so that you get a sense for different sides of Madeline. Some of the chapters were simple retellings of what is happening, while others were computer screenshots, or diagrams, maps or IM conversations. These broke up the structure of the novel in a really fun way, because events that were perhaps more ordinary, like Madeline buying an entirely new wardrobe, could be put across to the reader quickly with a drawing. Others really got across the emotion that Madeline is feeling, whether it is the dream that is described in writing in the form of a spiral, or a map of her broken heart. They also bring you closer to Madeline in that you feel like you are reading her personal journal, seeing the doodles that she makes for her eyes only.
I also really enjoyed the relationship between Madeline and Olly. I loved the contrast between Olly and Madeline, and the fact that he in a way, symbolises everything that Madeline is missing outside. He wears all black to her all white, and while she is trapped inside her house, he is running around and practicing parkour. At the same time, he didn’t feel like a YA love interest cliche. He wasn’t a bad boy, he wasn’t cruel, he wasn’t a John Green quirky nerd. He felt as real as she did, and I never found myself wondering what was so special about Olly. He was genuinely nice. I also liked that although both of the characters come from very different family backgrounds, they both have to face the same challenge of finding a way to be free of their family’s control, and the idea that love can trap you as well as free you. This might seem a little vague, but I promise you, if you read this book you will see what I mean. This novel doesn’t portray love as being simple, and for such a short book, I think Nicola Yoon really explores the nature of love in all its forms really well, from Madeline’s controlling mother, acting out of love and trying to protect her daughter, to Olly’s mother who can’t find it in her to take herself out of a dangerous situation.
My only issue with this book was that I felt like the plot twist – without revealing anything spoiler-y – was a cop-out. All of the problems facing Madeline were solved with a flick of Yoon’s wrist, and the consequences of this plot twist didn’t felt properly dealt with enough. To be honest though, this was annoying, but it didn’t ruin the book for me. My favourite parts of the novel were the characters and their relationship, and this wasn’t really dampened by the weak plot. If Nicola Yoon had explored the various revelations made in a more nuanced way, this book would have been a 5-star read.
Overall, this book had so many wonderful aspects. I really recommend this if you are looking for a short and sweet read, whether you typically read YA or not, this is a brilliant and entertaining novel, and I can’t wait to read more of Nicola Yoon’s work.