Lately, I seem to have hit the contemporary young adult jackpot. Last month I read Adam Silvera’s History Is All You Left Me and I loved it. This month, I discovered Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, and it was stunning.
“Love is worth everything. Everything.”
Everything, Everything is a contemporary young adult novel about love, family and what it means to be alive. The book is told from the point of view of Madeline, an 18-year-old girl who doesn’t remember what it’s like to feel the sun on her skin or the wind in her hair. Madeline has severe combined immunodeficiency disorder: in other words, her allergies are so severe that she hasn’t left the house in seventeen years. The air she breathes is filtered, her school lessons are delivered through Skype, and her only friends are her mother and her nurse. That is, until Olly moves in next door and is determined to get to know her. Gradually, Olly weaves his way into Madeline’s life, bringing with him a reminder of the vibrant but dangerous world outside, and igniting a yearning within Madeline to experience something more than the world within her little bubble.
For a small book, Everything, Everything tells a big story which touches on a number of topics, including love, loss, family, and loneliness. Madeline’s story is incredibly touching and relatable. You don’t need to be ill to understand the loneliness that Madeline feels, and this was a feeling that really hit me while I was reading this book. Another thing I loved about the book was how well-written it was, and how Yoon manages to be poignant without ever feeling like she’s trying too hard.
“For the first time in a long time, I want more than I have.”
I really liked the character of Madeline: I found her smart, funny, and sure of herself – all the qualities I look for in a good heroine. Surprisingly, this book made me laugh a lot. This humour balances the sadder portions of this book, meaning it doesn’t feel too heavy or disheartening. Yoon does a great job of injecting light and life into her characters despite their circumstances.
The romance in this story is sweet, and not overplayed. I liked that Everything, Everything felt like it was part love story, but mostly, it was Madeline’s story. Because the book is so short, the romance feels like it develops fairly quickly. While I prefer reading about a romance that develops more slowly, there was something so genuine and sweet about the relationship between Madeline and Olly that this didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book.
Like I said, Everything, Everything tells a big story in a small number of words. Some elements of the story are predictable, but on the whole, it still feels unique and refreshing. There is even a fun, artistic reference to Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, a famous painting in which the viewer is peering into a diner from across the street. It’s a piece of artwork often interpreted as about being on the outside, looking in, which fits well with Madeline’s story (although Madeline is on the inside, looking to the world outside). I also really liked the ending, although I can understand why it might polarize readers.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I read it in about two days, taking every spare moment I had to read a few more pages, and I finished it feeling satisfied and emotional.
“I was happy before I met him. But I’m alive now, and those are not the same thing.”