Thursday, August 27, 2015

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

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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.

Everything Everything is just one of those gems that I urge everyone to read. Madeline narrates her story with such integrity that it’s hard not to be affected by her words.

Madeline has been isolated from the world for as long as she can remember. The way she explains it is that she’s on “SCID row”. She suffers from Severe Combined Immunodefiency aka “bubble baby disease”. Any contact from outside that bubble could trigger a severe allergic reaction. Her sole interactions with other people are her physician-mother and her nurse, Carla. For someone who is so shut off from the world, Madeline is remarkably accepting of her situation. Sure, she’d like to be able to experience first-hand all the things any one of us takes for granted but I didn’t get the sense that she felt sorry for herself. That isn’t until Olly and his family move in next door.

At first, Madeline just observes her new neighbours, keeping track of their comings and goings. But it’s Olly and his odd habits that intrigue her. Olly eventually extends an invitation of friendship by waiting for her at his bedroom window which is across from hers. Through emails they begin a fun correspondence that soon becomes the highlight of both their days. It’s here that the story sucked me in so completely. Olly is so magnetic and funny. Even though Madeline hasn’t been around kids her own age, she’s able to banter effortlessly with him. But it’s also here that I thought to myself, “this book is going to crush me” because inevitably there is a roadblock and then a crisis that interferes with this burgeoning friendship. Despite those things I still hoped for a happy ending.

There’s so much charm and wit in this story. It’s so beautiful to see Madeline come alive as she feels and senses things she’s never experienced before. And she’s not the only one affected. Olly too, who has his own family drama, finds security and comfort in their companionship. This new connection has opened up a whole new universe for them and in a way brought them some freedom.

I read this book in 4 hours so that tells you how much I adore it! This is an extraordinary story with a lot of heart and told with such tenderness. The many illustrations (courtesy of Yoon's husband) add to the book's appeal. I meant what I said at the beginning that it’s hard not to be affected by Madeleine’s journey or Olly’s calming presence. Everything Everything gives you all the feels and then some.

~ Bel

Update: On August 26th, Nicola Yoon shared some pretty exciting news on Twitter - MGM optioned the film rights to Everything, Everything!  Congrats, Nicola!!

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