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.
Eighty percent of Nicola Yoon's young adult novel, Everything, Everything, was exactly what I expected from this book. The other twenty percent threw me for a roller coaster sized loop that, to me, pushed the book to the next level. It's one thing to write a contemporary romance for young adults; it's quite another to include a twist the size of a tornado. Though, I don't think I can fully review this book without including the twist. Therefore, if you haven't read the book and don't want me to spoil it for you: I give you complete permission to not read the rest of this review. However, I can say that I'll try to keep the twist as vague as possible, if you'd like to read it anyway.
Madeline Whittier is a teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood who suffers from SCID, also known as bubble boy disease. Maddy has been shut away from the world for eighteen years, living in a perfectly clean house that protects her from the outside triggers that could kill her. The only two people she ever sees are her mother and her nurse. Maddy is an intelligent girl who was mostly okay with her situation. Yet, when Olly moves in next door, he shows her that there's a difference between living and being alive. And thank God he did. With Olly, Madeline gets to be an almost-normal teenage girl complete with a crush, late night chatting, and secret keeping. As she experiences all of this for the first time, readers will sympathize with her situation and hope for an outcome that doesn't kill her. The whole novel is told from Maddy's point of view almost in journal format. It's like a collection of glimpses into her world that combine to tell the story. There are also drawings included to illustrate Maddy's thoughts and feelings, which work to emphasize her imagination and hopeful outlook.
Readers learn about Olly from Maddy's observations and they'll come to feel very strongly about his situation. His life at home involves an abusive father that often ends in a physical confrontation. The way that Maddy describes it brings readers into the action and they'll fear for Olly just as Maddy does. For a teenager in a very difficult situation, Olly's outlook on life is fairly bright. As Maddy describes him, Olly is full of energy and light though he's often cast in shadow. As a reader, I appreciated Olly's loyalty to Maddy from the beginning, as well as his protective and caring nature. As the two teens grow closer, Maddy begins to realize her feelings for Olly as more than a friend. He becomes someone she can trust and decides that he can help her feel alive by escaping her life for just a couple of days, even if it means she'll die.
Looking at the plot in a deterministic way, Maddy would never have learned the truth about her life if it weren't for Olly and their trip to Hawaii. Maddy learns, from her mother, that her family has been to Hawaii before, a couple of months prior to the death of her father and her brother. She decides that she needs to visit there and applies for a credit card and promptly runs away. Though I do find this a little unbelievable, as I assume that Maddy had never applied for any kind of identification. She doesn't have a driver's license as she isn't allowed to be outside. Therefore, how could she have an ID that she could use to get on a plane? With her mom being so protective, I couldn't imagine her applying for a passport either. Looking past this plot hole, as a reader I'm glad Maddy went to Hawaii as it ends up saving her life, though she does kind of die while she's there.
This is where the twist comes in, and I'll refer to is as 'the twist' as to not completely spell it out for those who would rather not know exactly what happened. I have a couple huge problems with the twist. First, is that against the law? Maddy's mom is a doctor and therefore had to take an oath to help heal people. What she does goes against this oath and I assume that Maddy's mom has her medical license taken away after the twist is revealed, but this is neither confirmed nor denied in the book. Secondly, I would think that Maddy's mom needs to be institutionalized after this twist is revealed. There's obviously been a very large psychotic break that her mom needs to work through. And after the twist is revealed I would almost expect her mom to be a danger to herself. Though, after the twist comes out, there aren't any signs that Maddy's mom is dangerous.
The plot of this novel follows Maddy becoming friends with Olly, falling in love, finding out the truth about her life, and attempting to move on. I admit that I had a difficult time putting down this book. The chapters are short and push readers to keep going. It was highly entertaining, frightening at times, and full of hope. The writing style is very concise, not including anything past what is required to know and understand the story. This adds to the journalistic feel of the novel. However, I wasn't completely happy with the ending. I feel like I did get to know Maddy and watch her come of age in a unique and fresh way, but the ending is a little too concise. I think Maddy's evolutionary arc as a character would have been stronger if readers got to witness more of how Maddy reacts to the new potential of her life. An epilogue would have been enough to satisfy this curiosity. However, overall Everything, Everything is everything that a reader would expect from a story like this and I suspect that other novels by Nicola Yoon will be just as entertaining and surprising. As a movie is coming out, based on this book, in a couple of weeks, I'm very interested to know how this story will be represented through film. As a book, I highly recommend this novel to readers who enjoy young adult stories, fresh writing styles, and tornado sized twists.
Rating: 3/5 Cups