Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

18692431“The greatest risk is not taking one.”

Everything, Everything is a new twist on the theme ‘boy meets girl’. In this case, Madeline has an immodeficiency  disease called SCID. She has just turned 18 and has never been outside her house. She has been happy all this time to hang out at home with her books, her caregiver, and her mother. Until the new neighbours move in, and there is a boy…

Through windows and by instant messaging, Maddy and Olly get to know each other. He comes to know her condition, and she comes to know his dysfunctional family dynamics. After a while, they meet at Maddy’s house (after some rigorous decontamination), and are told not to touch. But, the more they get to know each other and the more they meet, the more they want. “Wanting just leads to more wanting.” Maddy is starting to think that being happy and being alive are not the same thing. She is soon keeping secrets from her mom, as well as contemplating taking the biggest risk of her life.

Ever since Olly came into my life there have been two Maddys: the one who lives through books and doesn’t want to die, and the one who lives and suspects that death will be a small price to pay for it. The first Maddy is surprised at the direction of her thoughts. The second Maddy… She’s like a god – impervious to cold, famine, disease, natural and man-made disasters. She’s impervious to heartbreak.      The second Maddy knows that this pale half-life is not really living.

So, Maddy makes her choice and disaster strikes. Or does it? Whichever way you look at it, her life will never be the same. She has tasted the sweetness of love and wants more, she has experienced the Outside and wants more; but as a result she has kept secrets from her mother, she has gone against her mother’s wishes and their close bond is breaking down. It is said that love makes us do crazy things – is it true? How crazy?

I’ve read many, many books involving heartache. Not one has ever described it as little. Soul-shattering and world-destroying, yes. Little, no.

This is why people touch. Sometimes words are just not enough.

I thought it would be fun for my daughter to read this book with me, since she belongs to the target age group. Happily, she agreed. 

My overall view of the book: I liked it, I thought it was cute, I liked the characters, and I liked all the books references. As a teen, I would have loved this book. As an older reader I couldn’t help but question some of the actions and choices that were made – stuff that I wouldn’t have thought of 20 years ago. It has the happy ending that a book like this is expected to have, but in my new older mind I wondered about the message the book is sending to my kids. Things don’t always work out the way you want, and love is not always the answer. (And, what about other people who have disabilities? I don’t want to give anything away in this review, but to find out what I mean head on over to Disability in Kidlit.) I would like to have seen the author take it in the not-so-easy direction, and still get to a happy ending (although, not likely the same happy ending). A conversation I had with Karen from One More Page, also made me realize that I would have liked more resolution with the mother (also discussed in more detail at Disability in Kidlit).

My daughter’s overall view: She liked it but she didn’t love it. She admits to being more of a dystopia/adventure/sci-fi fan, and not so much ‘boy meets girl’ fan. But, she did like it, and thought it seemed pretty realistic. She especially liked the sun room. And, she wondered why everything was white. (Why is everything white?) When I asked her what she thought of the ending, she smiled and said she liked it (what teen wouldn’t?). When I asked her about how it was left with the mother, she said she felt bad for her and hopes her daughter will still mostly live at home (yay!). This made me realize that the end could be interpreted as more open than I at first thought; all of Maddy’s plans are not revealed; just the immediate ones.

I have a few questions for you that popped into my head as I was reading this book. 

  1. Does love make us do crazy things?
  2. Would you risk everything for love?
  3. Is there still a benefit to falling in love, even if you know it will inevitably lead to heartbreak? Or is it best to avoid it?
  4. Is it worth the risk of dying to live rather than to just exist? Is it even true that just because you have a disability that doesn’t allow you to live the same way as people without the disability that you are not truly living?
  5. Are there any good books out there about teens/people with disabilities successfully living their lives to the fullest?
  6. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for love?

This is Nicola Yoon‘s first book, and I think it will do well. Check out her website; it’s as fun and colourful as the cover of her book. The acknowledgment section in her book is also worth reading; I thought it was lovely.

*I received this book from the publisher, which in no way changes my views of the book.


27 thoughts on “Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

  1. Cathy746books says:

    How fantastic that you read this with your daughter. What a great insight! I get the feeling I would have loved this as a teen, but would have the same misgivings as you reading it now. I think younger readers need to know that life is messy and that things don’t always work out well but when I was that age I was probably looking for the happy endings….

    • Naomi says:

      I really didn’t know which way to go in my review. I don’t read and review a lot of YA, and now I’m kind of glad; it’s hard to talk about it without bringing all my years into it with me, which isn’t necessarily fair since it wasn’t really meant for my age group. I do think that it’s a fun new book that a lot of people are going to love. Just try not to think too hard about the audience that it fails, and the other places it could have gone. I mean, that could be said for so many other books, too, right?.

  2. TJ @ MyBookStrings says:

    When I read the first review of this book, I also got directed to the Disability in Kidlit article that you link to, and it confirmed the ending that I had guessed for this book. Like you, I find the ending a bit convenient, but I’m sure I would have liked it when I was younger. As a parent, of course I’d want my kids to read thought-provoking books about how life doesn’t always end happy, but how realistic is that?
    I’m glad that you got to read this with your daughter and that you both got something out of the shared experience. And yes, love should make us do crazy things (although maybe not life-threatening things). 🙂 (Oh, and I’ve been thinking since yesterday, but I can’t come up with any books aimed at YA that have a disabled character.)

    • Naomi says:

      I guess it’s kind of saying something that we’re having a hard time coming up with books starring characters with disabilities. I did remember one I read with my kids a couple of years ago called Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. That was a good one, if you’re interested.
      It was fun reading along with my daughter! We don’t do it as much as we used to, mostly because I’m not as into her dystopian/sci-fi stuff.

      Like I said in my comment to Cathy, I do think this is a good book to read if you’re not thinking too hard about all the other roads it could have gone down, which is not necessarily fair to the book. The author obviously wrote it the way she did, because that’s the story she wanted to tell. And, it is absolutely okay (wonderful, even) to have happy endings. 🙂

  3. The Paperback Princess says:

    I too love that you read this with your daughter (and your daughter’s blue and purple nails. Love those)! This is a really thoughtful review, Naomi. I can see that it would probably not be something that I would read but you’ve done a really good job of really outlining your reading experience. I also really like the thoughts that you’ve had about love but that’s probably way too big a conversation to have here!

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks, Eva! I guess it probably is a pretty big conversation to have. This book really did make me ask myself a lot of questions, though. Stuff I haven’t thought about for a long time. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything too crazy for love, but I was hoping to hear some fun stories from everyone else! 🙂
      (I noticed later how well her nails went with the cover of the book!)

      • The Paperback Princess says:

        Did she plan that? Or was it serendipitous? I love when my nails match my reading material.
        I’ve never done anything crazy for love. But I do feel like love is really worth experiencing, even if it hurts you. Because then you’ve experienced it and it’s changed you, hopefully for the better. And let’s be honest, there’s nothing better than being newly in love. It totally alters your brain chemistry. When I was first dating my now-husband we’d go out on weeknights and I’d get home at like 2 or 3am and have to go to work the next morning. I remember feeling amazing in the mornings. No way I could do that now.

      • Naomi says:

        Ha! That’s so true! Hopefully, most people feel that way. But, what about the books we read that are about people who have broken hearts and they’ve become angry and jaded and spend their whole lives trying to mend?I know it’s fiction, but it’s gotta be coming from somewhere.

        The nails were serendipitous. 🙂

      • The Paperback Princess says:

        I think it probably has a lot to do with how the love leaves your life. Is it taken from you? Or is it destroyed by betrayal or something? We’ll never have all the answers and really a one-size-fits-all answer won’t work anyway. Which means that there will continue to be songs and stories written about it.

  4. Denise says:

    This story sounds similar to The Fault In Our Stars, also written for the YA age-set but the ending tackles some of your questions about love. Particularly your questions 1, 2, & 4. In my opinion Love itself is not enough to live a full and happy life. Family and friends are as important if not more important than romantic love and I don’t think it’s worth losing family for a teenage romantic love no matter how wonderful that love feels. I wish more YA lit agreed with that. Mostly it seems like (especially) the girl in love has to fight against her family and ultimately leaves her family for her love and this is reinforced as the highest ideal.

    • Naomi says:

      I haven’t read a lot of YA, but when I think about what I have read (and watched on TV or in movies) that does seem to be the pattern in the stories. Maybe the conflict of family versus romantic interest is just more interesting to read about. I wonder how it reflects what really is going on. Are most parents for or against their children having boyfriends/girlfriends? (I don’t expect you to know the answer to that.)
      The Fault in Our Stars might be a good example of family and love interest getting along pretty well, death being there as the conflict/obstacle in the story instead.

  5. ebookclassics says:

    I have this book and don’t know when I’m going to read it, but I enjoyed reading your thoughts and the comparison with your daughter’s opinion of the story. Any plans to read another book together soon?

  6. DoingDewey says:

    How fun! I loved getting both your perspective and your daughter’s.I think I’m more excited about this book based on your reviews together than I might have been based on either one by itself. You both liked different things about the book that sound good to me 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      It was fun writing it from both perspectives. I’d like to do it again, but with what book – I don’t know yet. Maybe one will just show up and be perfect.
      I’m glad you liked it. 🙂

  7. Karen says:

    First of all, I love all of your photos! Secondly, I loved that your daughter was willing to share her thoughts on the book. It’s so fun to see how different demographics react to the same text! I actually had a chance to meet Nicola Yoon last week and she was so sweet. She told those in the audience that she started writing this book when her daughter was only a few months old. She was incredibly overprotective and worried that something would go wrong, and that’s what inspired the story. She then talked about how wonderful it is to love someone, but also how terrible losing a loved one would be. It definitely made me “get” the story more. Although, after hearing this, I wonder why she left the ending as she did? Perhaps the improvement Maddy’s mom made was enough of an implied happy ending? Anyway, all that to say I really loved reading your (and your daughter’s) reviews! I hope she makes more appearances on the blog 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks Karen! I’ve already been thinking about what our next shared book could be. It might be a while, though, because I have a huge stack of library books to get through first!

      Hearing about the author’s inspiration for the story (coming at it from the angle of an overprotective mother rather than the angle of a girl who can’t leave the house because she is too sick) makes me like the book even more. It takes away the feeling that she was getting off too easy letting Maddy out of her illness so there could be a happy ending. The illness was only necessary for the overprotective mother. Does that make any sense? The ending still does feel a little unresolved, but it’s tricky territory if your goal is to have a feel-good book with a happy ending.

  8. julia says:

    i’m disabled–bedridden with me/cfs for years. and so i was heartened to read about the protagonist at first: so much like me! the isolation, the longing to get outside, to live a more normal life. at one point she comments on olly’s physicality/athleticism, and how he uses it as an escape, whereas she is trapped in her body.

    it was achingly relatable to me.

    and then, of course, the story changed.

    “mental illness” is a popular way to frame things and simplify them. this sort of narrative certainly makes a dramatic story.

    with so many stories of this kind of “crazy”, it seems like a reasonable explanation for difficult-to-understand illness in real life. a lot of people jump to this sort of conclusion–doctors, family, friends. most often, it’s the patient who’s blamed.

    it’s insulting and invalidating and incredibly demoralizing. it gets in the way of devastating diseases being taken seriously, being funded and researched. meanwhile, there’s patients without much treatment, much support, much hope.

    i sound melodramatic, but i’m bedridden, sick for 18 years. i’m lucky not to be in a nursing home, though i’m young(ish). and i’m lucky not to be severe like whitney dafoe: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/with-his-son-terribly-ill-a-top-scientist-takes-on-chronic-fatigue-syndrome/2015/10/05/c5d6189c-4041-11e5-8d45-d815146f81fa_story.html.

    i have read about the author’s being inspired by feeling overprotective of her child. that’s powerful, and worthy of portrayal. but not at this expense.

    here was a chronically ill character who spoke for me, and for numerous others with chronic illness…and then her experience was twisted and invalidated by an easy plot maneuver that could lead to a happy, able-bodied ending.

    and so i take offense.

    • Naomi says:

      I can see why you would be disappointed by the turn of events in this book, Julia. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you will someday come across just the book you are looking for, as well as a return to good health.

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