Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 1 September 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
When I first started reading Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, I had fairly high expectations. I was hoping for a romantic, perhaps even heartbreaking, story on a forbidden love. I looked forward to the narrative style using mixed media to tell this story and, whilst not imagining it to be the next The Fault In Our Stars, I thought it would at least ring true to a lot of the elements in that story. The sad truth is that whilst the idea behind the novel is interesting, it turned out to be a mediocre story. I was not blown away but it was not entirely terrible either. Originally, I planned on rating the novel 4 stars, but have since decided to bring it down to 3 stars. To be honest, there isn’t much that I can say about Everything, Everything. It was just okay. The saving graces of the novel were Yoon’s writing style and the layout but I was disappointed by the ending and the questionable way in which illness was treated, resulting in my 3-star rating.
Madeline is a teenage African-American/Japanese girl who lives a not-so-normal life. She has Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and, as such, is allergic to absolutely everything, preventing her from leaving her house for seventeen years. But the world as she knows it is about to come crashing down with the arrival of the new next-door neighbor, Olly. When Maddy catches his eye through the window, a complicated and not-so-easy relationship starts to bloom. The bond they develop over text message soon proves to not be enough. Maddy must either go outside and risk everything to be with Olly or lose the only love she has ever known.
I thought that I would love the relationship between Olly and Maddy more than anything else in this novel but, instead, I fell head over heels for Yoon’s writing style. Her writing is poetic and she is so talented at conveying powerful messages in just a few words. One of my favourite examples of this is Maddy’s definition of a promise as “the lie you want to keep”. The novel is riddled with poignant quotes such as this and perfectly embody the often sombre undertone of the story. The story is simultaneously sad and hopeful, and thus Yoon’s smooth, lyrical writing style carries it well, creating an easy but impactful reading experience. Had the writing been any other way, I’m not sure that the innocence of the characters and their experience would translate as well.
The way in which Everything, Everything is laid out is another intriguing aspect of the novel. Yoon makes use of various media, ranging from illustrations and graphs to emails and receipts, personalising Maddy’s story and draw the reader deeper into the reality in which she lives. The reader gets an inside look at the more intimate details of her journey by seeing exactly what Maddy sees. For example, her medical records are shown to us rather than explained, which I think makes Maddy and her genetic disorder feel all the more real. In addition to this, the mixed media quickened the pace of the novel and made heavier topics and moments more manageable to read. I enjoy when other elements are incorporated into a narrative to help tell the story and, in the case of Everything, Everything, it truly enhanced the story and definitely bridged a gap between myself and the characters!
However, the writing style and layout of the novel are the extents to which my enjoyment of this book went. I had two main issues with the novel that I had such a problem with that I simply could not give Everything, Everything anything higher than a 3-star rating. Firstly, the ending itself was far too convenient for my liking. Up until that point, I thought that Maddy’s SCID was difficult (but possible) to work around in terms of her pursuing her relationship with Olly to the extent that she hopes to. However, the ending was a huge cop-out and Yoon’s handling of the disorder in this regard truly bothered me. Secondly, Maddy’s SCID is clearly life-threatening and I do not think that it is a fair representation for those who do suffer from it, or any other illness/disability/disorder, as the novel suggests that risking your life for teenage love is healthy and realistic. I believe that this part of the love story is problematic and suggests that the ill can only be loved if they embrace life like how any otherwise healthy person would. This issue, along with the ending, resulted in Everything, Everything being quite a disappointing read.
At first, I had high hopes for Everything, Everything to be a great novel but I was, unfortunately, disappointed. I initially gave the book a 4-star rating because I convinced myself that I could overlook the ending, but it continues to not sit right with me to this day. Nicola Yoon writes beautifully and wrote the novel in a truly immersive and personal manner yet her handling of Maddy’s disorder and the way in which she ended the story was underwhelming.
HAVE YOU READ EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING? WHAT DID YOU THINK? COMMENT DOWN BELOW AND LET’S CHAT ABOUT IT! 🙂