*This review contains spoilers! Proceed at your own risk*
Maddy has been ill her whole life. She is allergic to everything so must spend all day, every day inside. But, when a new family move in next door, Maddy starts yearning for more from her life.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have a real love/hate relationship with YA literature so I’m relieved and excited to say that I enjoyed ‘Everything, Everything’ by Nicola Yoon. *
There are so many characteristics of YA books that make me roll me roll my eyes but Nicola Yoon managed to deconstruct all of these. For example, a big pet peeve of mine is when teenagers speak to each other as though they are in a Jane Austen novel. To me, it feels like the author has completely misunderstood how teenagers speak and interact with each other. Maddy had a very distinctive style of speaking that could be seen as mature for her age, however, because Maddy spends her whole life at home, reading and researching, it makes sense that her vocabulary would be more advanced.
Of course with any book, there are always going to be aspects you dislike. For me, that came in thr character of Carla, Maddy’s nurse. Her job is to look after Maddy and to make sure she doesn’t become ill. However, Carla arranges for Maddy and Olly to meet and spend time together. Of course I understand why, she wants Maddy to be happy and have as ‘normal’ a life as possible. Regardless, Carla had a duty of care, to allow Maddy to be in such a potentially dangerous situatuion was irresponsible. I realise the meetings were important to the progression of the narrative but it would have been more believable if they were organized by a friend or sibling.
I was also uncomfortable with the ending. There are so few stories about characters with disabilities or chronic illnesses. It was upsetting that Maddy’s discovery that her illness wasn’t real was seen as part of her happy ending. Personally, I would have found the ending much more realistic and inclusive if Maddy’s story ended with her and Olly living a beautiful life together with Maddy’s illness – trust me, it can be done!
What I loved about this story is that, at the heart, it was a very simple ‘boy meets girl and falls in love’ story. Coupled with teenage hormones and Maddy’s determination to be more than her illness, it becomes a story of bravery, and experiencing a life full of extremes.
One thing Nicola Yoon demonstrated beautifully was Maddy’s determination not to be defined by her illness. The line “What am I if I’m not ill?” spoke to me in a way so many books featuring characters with disabilities have tried and failed to do.
‘Everything, Everything’ feels like the kind of novel ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ was trying to be (that’s not to say TFIOS is bad, it just didn’t work for me). On the whole, representation was better. Maddy and Olly were drawn to each other because of their personalities rather than Maddy’s illness. Maddy is also a person of colour, the fact that this surprised me whilst I was reading made me realise just how white my reading has been recently.
I can’t wait for the film to come out in the UK and to see this wonderful story played out on the big screen.