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YA Book Review: 'Everything, Everything' By Nicola Yoon

Oct 27, 2015

Everything, Everything

by Nicola Yoon

Delacorte Press 2015

Madeline is allergic to everything. Literally. She has a rare disease that is a form of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency which requires her to remain in her environmentally controlled home at all times. Anyone who comes in has to go through a one-hour decontamination process, which means that the only people she sees are her mother, her nurse, Carla, and an occasional tutor.

One day, a moving truck pulls in to the house next door. Madeline watches through the window as a tall, lean boy, about her age, dressed entirely in black emerges from the truck. She continues to watch him and his family through the window and he watches her back.

After her mother turns away his mother's offer of a bundt cake to introduce the children, Madeline and Olly resort to their own means of communication, first miming between their bedroom windows, then exchanging email addresses, and finally convincing Carla to allow Olly to visit Madeline (as long as they promise not to touch).

The relationship was doomed from the start. Madeline was fated to fall for Olly and to have her heart broken. But her feelings for him open up new doors that cause her to begin to push beyond the limits of her confined and carefully-controlled life.

Savvy readers will have to exercise a hefty dose of willing suspension of disbelief in order not to question Madeline's total sense of isolation and naivete in spite of her access to the internet (which, theoretically, could have exposed her to many of the things that she seems to be entirely unfamiliar with). But the intensity of her feelings for Olly, and the reckless decisions that she makes as a result of them, are wholly believable in their universality.

Illustrations by David Yoon, the author's husband, depict email messages and post-it notes that are exchanged between characters as well as fanciful drawings of their observations and inner states that perfectly complement the creative sophistication of the main characters of the story.

While the plot is a little far-fetched, the characters are smart, quirky, and charming enough for the reader to be willing to be carried along the implausible adventure in the hope of a happy ending, which Yoon delivers with aplomb.

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Nicola and David Yoon

Nicola Yoongrew up in Jamaica (the island) and Brooklyn (part of Long Island). She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and their daughter, both of whom she loves beyond all reason. Everything, Everything is her first novel. Visit her at nicolayoon.com.

Renee Vaillancourt McGrath's book reviews are published every Tuesday on The Write Question blog. She has worked as a writer, editor, librarian, and public radio program host. She lives in Stevensville, Montana, with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs.