Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. Delacorte Press, 2015. Reviewed from ARC.
The Plot: Maddy, 18, is a girl who hasn't left home in years. She has Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, which is a fancy way of saying she is allergic to everything. Her house has to be kept a sterile, few people are allowed in, and all she knows of the world is what she read or what she watches.
One of the things she watches is the house next door and the new family, including a boy, Olly, her age. A friendship develops, and maybe something more, as Maddy has to decide what her future will be and whether she will always be afraid of the world.
The Good: Maddy's father and brother died while she was still an infant, before her illness was diagnosed. For years, it's only been her mother, a doctor, and a nurse who also her friend and confidant.
Olly. Olly is a fresh breath and their relationship is slow and sweet (though Olly would probably hate that!). It begins with handwritten signs and progresses to texts and emails until Maddy begs her nurse to please, please, please let Olly visit her. He'll follow all the rules, they both promise.
One thing leads to another, and Maddy is tempted to do the unthinkable. To kiss Olly. To leave her home. To venture into a world that may kill her.
This is a terrific story of a girl get wrapped up and safe; it's a story of a mother and daughter who are close and loving, whose past tragedies have made them dependent on each other and close. It's a story of a girl who has to take a chance with life and love. It's about whether what is safe is the best; about when it's OK to take a chance. And it's also a book with a diverse main character (half African American, half Japanese American) in a type of book that is usually all white main characters with, at best, diverse side kicks/best friends.
It's also about how tragedy can shape a person, both mother and daughter. And how far a mother will go to protect someone she loves, to protect her child. All I'll say is that, Maddy's life is not what she thinks. That secret, that spoiler, meant that some people really did not like the book (see the Disability in Kidlit review). That spoiler didn't change how I viewed the book, it simply shifted it for me -- that the book was not about one thing, but was actually about another.
And that other thing, it's disturbing. It shifts how Maddy sees and interacts with the world. And it also makes one think about what causes hurt and what causes harm.
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy