I decided to experiment with Everything, Everything (2015) by Nicola Yoon: I didn’t read the blurb, or any summary, but rather just started with the first page and many recommendations. I’ve concluded this is a great way to read.
Let me start by saying that Yoon is a great writer, and I mean really great. She gets feeling and emotion and character and atmosphere spot on, and it makes reading such a beautiful experience. This works especially well when considering the content of Everything, Everything: Maddy is confined to her house, and has been her whole life, due to her diagnosis with SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency), and thus she lives vicariously through her own imagination, a thing of beauty and grace that through the illustrations and visual formatting we get to experience from her firsthand. Alternatively, these can also simultaneously serve to remind us, the reader, that Maddy is living in a very different world to us, and these are her forms of communication.
It’s always such a nice thing to have a likable protagonist in YA, and Maddy is just that: she is honest and logical and smart. Nevertheless, at the start I was concerned that this was going to be yet another book about another teenager girl battling with another illness, (which I’m beginning to think might have negative effects on a young readership who might be influenced by this new trope into believing being ‘ill’ – mentally or physically – is the new normal and that we should all have something ‘wrong’ with us to make us fit in) and the lack of information provided about living with SCID and its effects was strange, but the plot’s twists and turns mean that ultimately, this is not a book about Maddy’s illness. Indeed, the final section of the book makes it quite the opposite, but I shan’t spoil for anyone yet to read.
Instead I’ll move on to what any future reader will naturally expect from this book: it’s about love as remedy to isolation and feeling different. Maddy’s blooming relationship with new neighbour Olly is so naturally developed and documented under the umbrella of first love in such a spot-on manner that it’s a gush-worthy story. SPOILER ALERT: The one element I did have a problem with was the sex scene, which made the first time sound like heaven, which is an unfair and unrealistic expectation to set young readers up with, and also a downright lie to readers who’ve already experienced it themselves. Although, this criticism doesn’t just fall on Yoon; I’m yet to read a book that does this kind of scene well.
The finale and its focus on Maddy and her mother’s relationship was the best part, in my opinion. The truthfulness of their exchanges and the sense of betrayal and love were incredibly powerful, and Yoon writes in understanding with both sides so that the reader is not at odds with either.
And so, Everything, Everything was a pretty great read, and I’m looking forward to giving Yoon’s The Sun is Also A Star (2016).