Madeline Whittier has a rare disease that has compromised her immune system. As a result, she's spent all of her eighteen years living inside the safe bubble of her house with the only people she interacts with being her mother and her full-time nurse, Carla. Maddy has mostly been content with her existence until the day a moving van pulls up next-door. One of her new neighbors is a boy about her own age named Olly. Maddy and Olly communicate via pantomime through the window and later begin messaging online. As she gets to know him, Maddy wants more, and eventually she talks Carla into allowing Olly to come visit. But soon, just visiting isn't enough either. As she grows closer to Olly, Maddy realizes that she's only been surviving and not really living, so when her mother finds out about Olly's visits and forbids her to see him anymore, she decides she's willing to risk everything for a few days of freedom from her "prison." But her one chance at a normal teenage romance could lead to disaster.
I can't recall exactly how Everything, Everything came to my attention, and whether I heard about the book or the movie first. In any case, when I checked out the cover blurb, it sounded like something I would enjoy. I'd previously read and loved John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, and thought that Everything, Everything sounded like it might have some similarities. Now that I've read it, I'll simply say it does, but it doesn't. Yeah, I know that's pretty cryptic, but I don't want to give too much away. All I'll say is that the main difference is that I feel comfortable classifying it as romance, because it does have a happy ending for our main couple, albeit a somewhat open one. The book is written in a series if vignettes, some of which are full scenes, while others are almost akin to journal entries or even simple notes and illustrations. Some chapters are only a few lines long, while others are a few pages, but I think even the longest chapters are no more than maybe 8-10 pages tops. I'd never read a book written in this style before, and I think because of that, at times, I felt somewhat at a distance from the main characters. But overall, it was pretty well done.
Everything, Everything is told in first-person POV from the perspective of eighteen-year-old Madeline. She suffers from a rare disorder known as Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and has spent her entire life living inside the safe bubble of her home. Since her father and brother died in a tragic accident when she was just an infant, she has no one but her mother and her nurse, Carla, as companions. Thus far, she's been content with her life, but that all changes the day a new family moves in next-door. They have a teenage son her age named Oliver who Maddy is immediately attracted to. They secretly start getting to know one another, first through pantomime at their windows, then over IM on the computer. At first, Maddy is reluctant to tell Olly about her disease, because she doesn't want him to pity her, but they develop a strong enough friendship that she gradually confides in him. With Carla's help, Olly eventually goes through the decontamination process to come visit Maddy in person with them keeping at a distance. But soon conversing across the room just isn't enough. After they finally touch and even kiss, Maddy's mom finds out what's been going on and forbids her to see Olly again. But after experiencing a taste of what life is like in the normal world, Maddy realizes that surviving isn't really living and that she'd rather risk shortening her life to have more of those feelings than to stay in her safe bubble that now seems more like a prison. I could relate to Maddy, maybe in part because she's a bookworm like myself. Since she can't go anywhere, she experiences and processes the outside world though the lens of books. She's a smart girl with an adventurous spirit who simply wants to live her best life even if that life is a short one.
The reader only gets to see Olly through Maddy's observances and the things he tells her. He, too, is an adventurer and part of what draws Maddy to him is the fluid grace of his parkour skills. But beneath the surface of the active boy who has a hard time sitting still is an intelligent mind (he's great at math) and a guy who tries his best to take care of his mother and younger sister. Several years earlier, after losing his job, Olly's dad began a descent into alcoholism and abusive behavior, so Olly is the one who stands up to his dad and plays the protector, although with his mother in denial, he can only do so much. With Maddy, I think he can just be himself, and it seems like interacting with her is something of an escape for him as well. The protector in him still comes out, though, when Maddy enlists his help with her plan to live a little. Olly is gentle and sweet with her and I very much enjoyed their romantic interludes together.
Since Everything, Everything is primarily classified as a YA book, this is where I'll discuss any potentially objectionable content. There are a few religious profanities and a couple of other bad words, but the language isn't at all excessive. There are probably less than ten of these words throughout. The only violence is that Olly's dad is abusive, but most of this takes place behind closed doors with it only being discussed later or Maddy observing bruises on his mom afterward. There is, however, one scene in which Olly and his dad get into a physical fight that ends up outside where Maddy can clearly see them. Olly has a closeted gay friend, and he and Maddy briefly discuss his reasons for keeping his sexual orientation a secret. There is some mild to moderate sexual tension between Olly and Maddy, and they do make love once. However, the scene is fairly short and couched in pretty delicate terms, so as love scenes go, it was very mild. And I give them props for engaging in safer sex that was preceded by a brief discussion about it.
There was quite a bit of hype surrounding Everything, Everything and I'm not quite sure it fully lived up to it for me. However, it is still a good story that I can definitely recommend to YA fans. It has a unique premise and very likable and sympathetic characters that were easy to relate to even in the extraordinariness of their relationship. That said, though, I think that the style in which it's written doesn't lend itself well to a really deep dive either in character perspectives or relationship development. There's just enough that I did enjoy it, but at the same time, I simply wanted more. Although I know it's common for YA to be told from one character's first-person POV, I did kind of miss getting to know Olly a little better. There were times I wanted to know more of what he was thinking and feeling. I also found a couple of plot holes. Maddy and Olly take a plane and stay in a hotel for their little adventure, and I know from first-hand experience that virtually no hotels will rent a room to an eighteen-year-old. Also, you need ID to fly and since Maddy has spent her whole life locked up in her house, she wouldn't have a driver's license or passport. I also wasn't quite sure what the big deal was with Olly coming to visit as long as he went through decontamination. Maddy's mom left the house every day to go to work and her nurse left every night to go home to her family, and they both touched Maddy and were affectionate with her. So why Olly couldn't do that was kind of a mystery to me. If there was a legitimate reason, I think it needed a better explanation. I was worried for a while that the story was going to have a tragic ending, so I was very pleased that it didn't. In fact, there's a masterful plot twist that I didn't see coming that helped to put them on the path to an HEA. While the ending was happy, it was also rather abrupt. When I turned the page and it said "The End," I was like "That's it?" The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized it was rather perfect in a way, but at the same time, I simply wanted more and thought the author could have still ended it that way while expanding on it a bit. Overall, even though it wasn't quite a flawless read, Everything, Everything was an enjoyable one that makes me look forward to checking out Nicola Yoon's other work.
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