Imagine a life lived in 1,800 sq. feet, where your company consists only of your mother and nurse, where time holds no great importance, where the world outside is one big question mark without a sentence after. This is the way Madeline Whittier has spent the first seventeen years of her life; on SCID Row as she calls it with her whole future dictated by Severe Combined ImmunoDeficiency, the rare and infamous disease that has left her with this shell of a life. Madeline is nothing if not a champion in optimism though; even with no cure in sight she finds joy in the little freedoms granted to her such as writing one sentence spoiler reviews of classics on Tumblr (it’s just as cool as it sounds), game nights, trading barbs with her lovely nurse Carla, and observing the neighborhood as it happens around her. All this is good enough, fulfilling even, until one day a family buys the house next door, and with that she is transfixed by the spell of son Olly, an enigmatic boy who she knows only through their window encounters. Alas, the heart wants what it wants and very soon Madeline finds herself jeopardizing her fragile state of existence by welcoming Olly into her world with the help of Carla. Their romance is one fraught with a whirlwind of emotions, and very soon Madeline decides that she needs more than what this life allotts to her, dire consequences or otherwise. What follows is a self reflective journey that ventures to ask what truly LIVING life to its maximum should look like. Through innovative methods of storytelling (drawings, charts, IM exchanges, letters, and all other things good and creative in this world) Nicola Yoon weaves a tale of first love and personal discovery through the eyes of a one of a kind narrator not to soon be forgotten.
Unpopular opinion time over here on Megnificent Books, but Everything, Everything failed in a major way for me. As horrible as it sounds I think I have “sick teen” fatigue in my young adult reading. I continue to be intrigued by contemporary romances where one, or both, of the protagonists have a life-threatening disease, but I just need to give the trope a year or two to regenerate new spins on The Fault In Our Stars for fear of me throwing the book across the room at the sheer amount of times I’ve seen a version of a sick girl defying the restraints of her illness for some edgy dreamboat. While Everything, Everything promises a unique take on this viewpoint I found it to be very run of the will, and with the exception of the masterfully done art, there were many aspects I found superiorly done in other books. With that though I feel the need to give credit where credit is due, and that honor goes to Daniel Yoon, illustrator and husband to the author of this book. While graphic art mixed into writing is an emerging trend in YA I don’t believe I have ever seen it so successfully executed as it is in Everything, Everything. Never did I feel like it was added merely as a marketing ploy or to stick out from the legions of other new releases, but because it genuinely made my reading experience more enjoyable and added an extra dimension of understanding to Maddy’s character. The style of which it is done is very quirky, little half page sketches that are at once eye catching, but never take away from the scene it is enhancing. Nicola Yoon deserves an A+ herself, at least for her memorable storytelling. Few chapters are carried out in a traditional format, with most written in a very personal way, like you’re playing witness to the burgeoning love of Olly and Maddie. This in turn leads to a fast paced story that is easy to devour in one sitting, perfect for anyone getting over a reading slump.
When Yoon did an aspect of the story right, in my opinion, she did it exceptionally well. As a more introspective reader though, this did nothing to cover up the many flaws I found in the plot, characters, and my overall enjoyment of Everything, Everything. Most of these issues I felt stemmed from my disconnect towards the characters. Yoon, for example, has a built in safety net in that very few readers will be able to not immediately feel a stirring of sympathy for Maddy and her tragic plight. This should have allowed for Yoon to spend her efforts in making Maddy more than the sum of her illness, someone a reader could imagine living an amazing life untainted by the sorrows of such a horrible disease. For me though Maddy never evolved past someone I felt sorry for, like a cardboard cutout I could not find anything more powerful to define her as other than the disease she carried. Even worse was Olly, the parkour angel of death stud muffin who is also the object of Maddy’s affection. Sure that’s great and all but considering the two have about zero measurable chemistry and he’s probably as interesting as wet cardboard the attraction really doesn’t make sense. I get what Yoon was going for, they’re two teenagers stuck in compromising situations who find each other and viola! Problems solved! But the fact is Olly’s home life can be summarized in fourteen words; his dad’s a raging alcoholic, mom’s a doormat, and his sister is apparently self-destructive. Literally that’s it. Nothing is ever further elaborated and we’re just supposed to assume it’s crushing his soul so severely he looks for comfort in a strange girl creeping on him from a window. Oh and don’t even get me started on Maddy’s so called mother. What a joke! I admire Yoon for going against missing parent syndrome (not that there could be a book without her, but still) however she must have been absent the day her professor discussed that even book characters have to have emotions and actions that fall in line with how they’re being presented. The mother in this book swung from one extreme to the next with no rhyme or reason, just present at the whim of how the plot demanded her. This leads me to the biggest literary blind side I have ever seen. No joke, it came so far out of left field that it was practically playing another sport. While I won’t spoil it here (though I’m sure the Google machine can tell you if you’re curious), know that it totally ruined the so far mediocre, but enjoyably chessy, book for me, knocking it down from three to two stars. It makes absolutely zero sense in the story and serves only to bring the two lovers together in order to give readers a happy ending. Good grief!
In need of a light hearted, cheesy and sweet, summer romp? If you’re willing to set aside technical merits then Everything, Everything just might work for you in a way it never did for me. Definitely not worth the hype but worth pursuing for fans of TFIOS and All the Bright Places in search for a book in similar vain. ‘