Saturday 24 June 2017

#CBR9 Book 54: "Everything Everything" by Nicola Yoon

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Madeleine has never left her house or been outside. She's got a rare auto-immune disorder and lives in a house hermetically sealed, with special filters making sure nothing gets in that could hurt her. The only people she sees regularly are her mother, whose a doctor, and her nurse, Carla. On very special occasions, when he's been decontaminated thoroughly, she's allowed to meet one of her favourite tutors, but Madeline's life is lived mostly vicariously through books and the internet, dreaming of the outside world.

Everything changes when Oliver, or "Olly" and his family move in next door. Olly is tall and handsome and wears all black. He and his younger sister try to give Madeline and her mother a bundt cake as a welcoming gift, but aren't allowed inside. Olly's inventive and does his best to get Madeline's attention. Soon they are exchanging messages, and he takes to calling her Maddy, because everyone should have a nickname.

The teens communicate through their windows and on messages, frequently late at night, as Maddy is pretty sure her mother isn't going to be enthusiastic about her new friendship. She confides in Carla, however, and eventually, the nurse agrees to let Olly in to visit.

Maddy has lived seventeen years in isolation. She knows that leaving the house could be disastrous, but she also wants to feel like she has actually lived. She concocts a wild plan and persuades Olly to go along with it, telling him she's been taking a new kind of drug that will protect her from all her allergies of the outside world. So Maddy and Olly go off together to Hawaii, where Maddy will walk on a beach, bathe in the ocean and really experience life. She's willing to risk her life to really live, if only for a few days.

The movie adaptation for this is in cinemas now, and I haven't made up my mind about going to see it or not. As a YA romance, I thought it was pretty sweet. Yes, Olly is probably the ideal first boyfriend and a bit too good to be true. He has some family troubles that give him just the right level of angsty and he's sweet, sensitive, funny and incredibly understanding. Any girl would fall for him, not just Maddy, who's lived an extremely sheltered life, reading books and dreaming of what other teenagers have.

A lot of romance is all about wish-fulfilment and I don't see why teenage girls shouldn't get some of that too. Yes, a lot of teenage boys are dumb, self-centred, immature and rude, but there are exceptions and it doesn't hurt to have books that tell young women what they should be aiming for in their first loves. Do I think Maddy and Olly will get married and live happily ever after? Probably not, they are just seventeen - but Olly certainly wouldn't be the sort of boyfriend you look back on with regret.

Maddy is a sweetheart. She refuses to let her illness or forced isolation get her down. She does her best with the hand life has dealt her, and only really starts to chafe when Olly and his family move in next door and she gets an idea of all the things she's really missing. While her actions are rash and incautious, I can't blame her for wanting to run away and have an adventure, even knowing it might have serious consequences for her health. As it turns out, it does, but not exactly in the ways you may have first suspected.

I probably should have foreseen the surprise twist during the last third of the book, but I actually didn't. I suspect a lot of other readers will see it coming, though, especially now that there are movie reviews out that may spoil things as well. I do wish this development had been dealt with in a better way, and it didn't really have a proper resolution. The love story between Maddy and Olly took centre stage and the final act reveal sort of got a bit lost in getting the separated lovers back together again.

By all accounts, the movie adaptation is supposed to be pretty good. I think I'd rather go see Wonder Woman again, but suspect that many of the young women I taught for the last three years (and possibly some of the boys) would enjoy it a lot.

Judging a book by its cover: While I thought the cover was a bit generic YA at first, I liked it better when I saw it had a connection to illustrations inside the book, all done by Nicola Yoon's husband, apparently. It's still not the most exciting of covers, but since it's part of a bigger whole, I'll allow it.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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