Thursday, August 6, 2015

Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Publication date: September 1, 2015
Rating: ★★★★

Summary (via Goodreads):

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

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.

Many thanks to Delacorte Press for sending me this electronic copy via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I read somewhere that Everything, Everything is what you wish The Fault in Our Stars could have been. Both books explore rare illnesses, impossible love, intelligent characters with little quirks – but Everything, Everything is decidedly more hopeful, fortunately less pretentious (sorry, Augustus Waters), and appreciably more diverse. The story itself is written from Maddy's perspective, but it feels like a mixed media art project with Maddy's one-line book reviews (on Tumblr, of course), doctor's notes, illustrations (drawn by Nicola's husband!), chat logs, screenshots of Maddy's email inbox, even the chapter titles… all of which provide an interesting subtext to the story. In Everything, Everything we get to take a look at Maddy's world, where repetition, predictability, and structure are forever the big themes of the day, until Olly moves in next door and changes all of that.

For me, the storyline is what really makes me like the book – surprising, given that I'm always going on about characters and character development. (But I actually find Maddy to be perhaps too perfect, too likable, in this story. Even when she registers that her actions are hurtful, it's still always easy for the reader to justify and make sense of what she's doing. It's hard for me to actively root for her, and I think part of it is that I never fully get the impression that she truly "earns" the good things that happen to her. They just sort of… happen to her. I don't know. It is a feeling I cannot clearly explain or substantiate.)

I do love seeing Maddy fall in love for the first time. There is an element of insta-love here, but it's not wrong in and of itself, or out of place either – especially when you think about the amount of interaction Maddy has had with the outside world (read: practically none). No wonder Olly feels like a bolt of lightning. I actually find it strangely comforting to experience Maddy's feelings for him. It reminds me of all the intense crushes I had throughout high school and college, of things moving too fast, how your heart can swell with affection and infatuation in such a short period of time, how someone can creep into your thoughts without you even realizing.

Without spoiling the book, I'll just say that the ending is somewhat convenient. In some ways, it diminishes the story and resolves the conflict too easily. But that could just be my penchant for angst and for putting characters through hell to see if they can cope. I do appreciate that the "twist" adds a different kind of depth to the book by pulling other things to the surface: deep-seated issues in Maddy's relationship with her mother; the question of what it means to be alive and whether it is different from living; the futility in wondering how our lives might be different if only this had happened or if that had turned out differently; the realization that every little thing we experience, for better or for worse, brings us to who and where we are today.

All in all, despite my slight objections, Everything, Everything is a strong debut from Nicola Yoon and it totally deserves its Kirkus starred review. It's a well-crafted book (I wasn't exaggerating when I said it was a mixed media work of art), and it's such a delight to see things come full circle. You'll know what I mean when you get to the last page. Even if you do feel similarly about some of the issues I've called out, maybe you'll still sigh and marvel, like I did, at how brilliantly the story comes together all the same.

4 comments:

  1. I had similar thoughts as well. The ending felt too convenient and the element of insta-love made it difficult for me to emotionally connect with Olly and Maddy. And Olly never felt developed to me as a character. He was just the love interest that made Maddy venture out into the world. I liked that this book had diversity which was great.

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    1. Yeah, Olly never felt very developed to me either. I guess that's part of what made me feel like things just happened to Maddy without her earning them - it wasn't really clear why Olly even liked her so much - she just somehow captured his heart. Good call on the diversity though - I didn't even mention it in my post, but it was SUPER appreciated.

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  2. I don't know why when I saw this book around and read the initial reviews I didn't think that this was my sort of read, but your review has convinced me to give this one a go. I think I'm one of the handful of people that didn't get on with The Fault in Our Stars, but here's hoping this one will be more my sort of read. Lovely review! :)

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    1. Thank you! :)

      This wasn't my typical read either, but it was better than I expected, for sure. Hope you enjoy!

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