Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Usually book hype doesn't effect me. This time, as I sit here a few days post finishing it, I feel like the hype has finally caught up with me. It's probably the main culprit in the case of "why I still haven't given Everything Everything a star rating". I read this book in less than 12 hours, in a single sitting, which usually means that I just loved a book, but I'm still sitting on the fence with all of my feelings.
Everything, Everything tells the story of Madeline, a girl who is allergic to - you guessed it - everything and therefore hasn't gone outside for her entire life. But when Olly's family moves in next door, it changes her life in unexpected and pretty permanent ways. I expected to be blown away by Everything, Everything. Just blown, bbbssshhh! *Mimes mind-blowing action* And because of that, it fell a little short of my expectations - my mind was not blow, baffled yes, but not blown.
Yoon's characters make this story interesting and lovable. Aside from a moment towards the middle of the novel that made me say "wait, what?", I found Madeline to be a pretty level headed and refreshing character, which is fortunate as the book is written in her point of view. Considering her condition, it would be easy for her voice to come across whiny or very 'woe-is-me", but it didn't. And Madeline's need for "more" was not only understandable but totally relatable. Olly is like a mystery that is solved in the most satisfying ways. At first, he seems like a manic pixie dream boy, this person that Madeline can't quite figure out. He's dressed in black from head to toe, and in his free time, he launches himself from his bedroom window onto the roof where he does mysterious things just out of Madeline's view. But eventually, his story expands in interesting ways that give his character much more depth. And as a connection developed between mysterious Olly and Madeline, I found myself with a serious case of the feels. The adults in Madeline's life add a lot to the story. Her caretaker encourages Madeline to live instead of just exist, despite her circumstances, and her mother plays the role of dutiful parent, who selflessly dedicates her life to her child. Both characters were essential to the story and a constant presence which is not typical of YA.
It's the plot of this story that has me swaying on the metaphorical fence. The first half of this novel was great. The pacing was perfect and nothing ever felt extraneous. But towards the end, things got a little rushed and well, something felt off. About 3/4ths of the way through the novel, something happened and from then on, I felt like I was on a roller coaster that I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to be on. It was definitely an intriguing, stomach dropping ride, but it threw me for a loop and I'm not sure if I liked it.
Despite how I may have felt about the plot, there's something about this novel that makes it hard to put down, and I think it's the writing and the style. The stylistic choices stole the show for me. I loved the inclusion of the diagrams, definitions, webpages and IM conversations ... Even the chapter titles were cute. Yoon's writing is not to be forgotten however. It was straight-forward but also poetic, without coming off pretentious. I found myself highlighting so many lines within the novel because of how well-written and important they felt. I felt like I was receiving these inspiring little nuggets about life and I wanted more.
"How the chocolate turned white, and the milk turned brown, and how sometimes you can't unmix things no matter how much you might want to."
"I was happy before... But I'm alive now, and those are not the same thing."
The only spoiler-y thoughts I have are about the perceived insta-love between Madeline and Olly and that ending (!).
I really liked the relationship between Madeline and Olly. I loved everything about their email conversations, their meetings in the green room, and the cute way they fall for each other. Normally, the sort of insta-love that occurs in this novel would bother me, as I prefer my romance slow-burning. But under the circumstances, it made perfect sense. Madeline has had very limited contact with the outside world, so clinging to Olly's companionship seems totally normal for her. In fact, I expected much more. I cannot say enough about how much I really loved the romance in this novel. It was cute, touching and exactly what Madeline needed in her life to discover herself and the world (and secrets) around her.
Which brings me to the ending. That roller coaster I mentioned above should be named "Why The Hell Is Madeline Going Outside, She's Gonna Die!" because that's how I felt for the final 25% of this book. Her decision to leave seemed to come out of left field, and a few things about it bothered me. For one, it felt a bit selfish. Sure, we eventually find out that Madeline's mom is kinda nutso and has falsely diagnosed her daughter, thereby confining her to what has essentially been a prison sentence, because of her personal fears of the outside world. But that doesn't change the fact that Madeline chose to recklessly endanger her life (according to her knowledge) and worry her mother half-to-death. Secondly, it was a bit unrealistic that Madeline was able to be outside for as long as she was, considering the condition that she does have. We find out that although Madeline doesn't have SCID, she does have a weakened immune system due to her confinement. So I find it strange that her excursion to Hawaii, which includes a germ-y airplane ride, doesn't effect her much sooner. Lastly, something about the entire ordeal felt a bit frustrating. Although it was a damn interesting twist, it fell a bit flat for me, because quite frankly, it's not really what I wanted from this story. I wanted a story about a girl who actually is allergic to the outside world and how she copes with that.
That said, I still give this novel a 4 star rating because I really enjoyed it. Sure the ending felt a little off to me, but the writing, the style and the characters almost overshadow the ending in unexpected ways, making Everything, Everything a solid debut for Nicola Yoon.
If you're in the mood for a sweet contemporary with a unique story, you've come to the right place. As Yoon's debut novel, I think it was pretty fantastic. She illustrates her ability to create unique and diverse characters, and write about interesting topics with flair. Everything, Everything does what I think most writers hope their work will do - make me want to read more.