Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Published: expected September 1 2015
Source: publishers via NetGalley
This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.
So there is a lot of hype surround Nicola Yoon's debut and Everything, Everything is pretty worthy of the attention it's gathered. It's a YA romance with a lot of diversity, great main characters, and a plotline that seems expected in the TFIOS-vein but is still clever and memorable for its own merits. For a novel that's on the shorter side of the contemporary scale, it also manages to pack in the emotion and ship in those 320 pages.
The story is told from allergic-to-the-world Maddy's perspective but it's peppered with illustrations, snarky reviews, clever asides, and personal definitions. These miscellany are infrequent but often charming and add another dimension to Maddy's characterization. She's well drawn as it is, but Yoon uses these ably and to great effect throughout the story to further personify her. Since the main character is so removed from all but two people, it would usually takes a lot of personality or sympathy to keep me engaged as a reader. Maddy does that. She's smart and an honest bookworm, but her growth through the book turns her into a more three-dimensional person.
Olly, her love interest is likeable but in the grand scheme of things, felt somewhat bland. They work well as a couple (and I do ship it) but Olly doesn't feel fully realized the way Maddy or her mother do. The relationship between the teens is also a sticking point for me; it's one of the reasons this was not a full five-star read. I can see that Maddy's isolation leads her to feel things for Olly intensely and quickly but the jump from "neighbors who IM" to "soulmates" was just too fast for me to fully enjoy. I ship them as a couple, I just wish the relationship had taken more time to mature authentically.
Everything, Everything is also to be commended for a twist in the novel that changed the terms of the game. I thought I had figured out how this would play and Yoon is far smarter than the expected. Some may think it strains credulity and I can see that aspect but personally, I appreciated the sleight of hand and thought it made the end of the novel quite memorable. I also greatly enjoyed the diversity present throughout this novel. Maddy is Afro-Asian. Her closest friend is a middle-aged Hispanic nurse.
Everything, Everything is a strong debut. I'd recommend it to fans of YA contemporary who like believable characters, authentic representation, and interesting plotlines.