‘My life doesn’t make sense anymore. I almost wish I hadn’t met him. How am I supposed to go back to my old life, my days stretching out before me with unending and brutal sameness? How am I supposed to go back to being The Girl Who Reads?’
‘I’ve read many more books than you. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve read. I’ve read more. Believe me. I’ve had the time.’
Maddy has SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency) which has stopped her from leaving her house for the last 17 years. She spends her days reading as much as she possibly can to allow her to experience everything she’s missing, but when stepping outside could kill her she doesn’t mind staying inside.
But then Olly moves in next door: a beautiful boy with a penchant for parkour. Maddy convinces her nurse Carla to let Olly come over to visit, and as soon as they meet face to face she knows she’s going to fall in love with him.
Maddy’s alive in her protected bubble but she isn’t living, and Olly teaches her that experiencing the outside world might be worth dying for…
Nicola Yoon is a freaking genius. This is her debut novel and she’s picked a topic as difficult as SCID to write about? That’s a very brave choice. It’s the first book I’ve ever read on the subject – due to the fact that sufferers cannot step outside, I can imagine it often seems a very limiting tale to tell from an author’s perspective – and it’s always good to get representation of lesser known diseases to help with public awareness of difference.
Nicola’s writing is gorgeous. I flew through this book in a matter of hours because once you start reading Maddy’s story it’s impossible to put it down. Yes, falling in love with the boy next door – the only boy you’ve ever managed to speak to face to face – is a bit of a cliche, but all of the uncertainty Maddy’s experiencing is very emotional and makes their relationship extremely real. She struggles with hiding Olly from her mother, as their relationship has always been close because Maddy didn’t have any secrets. It’s a great portrayal of a family relationship, particularly when we discover that Maddy’s dad and brother died in a car accident when she was one – it has been her and her mother against the world for almost her entire life.
The debate over whether surviving is really living are ones that I’ve heard before (particularly in ‘The Walking Dead’…) but in the context of an eighteen-year-old’s life, they’re arguments she shouldn’t need to have with herself. It adds to the tearjerker nature of this novel and also makes you look inside yourself to answer those same questions: if going outside could kill you, would you be happy to live your entire life trapped inside the same building?
The book is elevated by David Yoon’s illustrations. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a beautiful book, as it tells the story in many different ways. There are the notes left by Maddy’s nurse, the illustrations of her architectural designs and – of course – the butterflies that Olly brings into her life in abundance. If you like stories that incorporate more than just words, you’ll love this book. I don’t think it would have been half as effective without these inclusions.
I’m choosing to make this review spoiler free because I think it’s much more effective if you experience it for yourself, but just know it’s going to spin you around and turn you upside down: you’re going to laugh, cry and be utterly shocked all at the same time. A book hasn’t made me feel this many emotions in quite a while.
I can’t wait for Nicola Yoon to release another novel. This was perfect, and I highly recommend it whether you’re a fan of contemporaries or not. Yes, the romance is a tad heave-inducing, but by the end of the book you’ll be swept up in Maddy’s life and you won’t want her story to end.
‘Everything Everything’ is a standalone, and with all of David’s illustrations and the short, sharp and snappy chapters that often last for only a few lines, it’s a much faster read than its 300 page count implies: if you have a spare afternoon you should give this one a try. You definitely won’t regret it.