Review of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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Published: September 1st, 2015 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers | Series: N/A | Length: 310 pages | Genre: YA, contemporary, romance | Source: Borrowed a copy from my library.

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

EDIT: Due to a post from Tumblr user bookavid pointing out the offensive and problematic nature of the ending of this book, I’ve decided to update my review to reflect a change in opinion of this book. 12/13/16

This seems to be one of those books that, despite it having been published over a year ago, I still see everywhere in the book community. So after hearing Nicola Yoon talk at the Boston Teen Author Festival in September and seeing that my library had Everything, Everything, I decided to finally take the plunge. For the most part, I loved this book but the ending was, quite frankly, lazy writing at best and offensive to people with chronic illnesses at worst.

First of all, this is a very fast-moving book. Part of this may be because I binge-read this book. It may also be because of its unique formatting – much of the story is told through IMs, various diagrams drawn by Maddy (the MC), etc. But all that aside, the romance between Maddy and Olly is still very quick to start and just as quick to progress. Not necessarily a bad thing, but something worth pointing out, in my opinion.

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I will say that I loved all the different formats. It made it really fun to keep reading and kept you interested without getting boring. This is really helpful for someone like me who tends to have a pretty short attention span and has a hard time sitting and reading for long periods of time.

I also really loved Maddy and Olly together. They’re very cute and they both bring out the best in the other. Maddy is dealing with SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency) and can’t leave her house and Olly has an abusive father so they both help support the other in dealing with their difficult situation and that was something that I really loved seeing.

All of what I’ve mentioned so far I LOVED. It was great and if the ending had been better, this would’ve been a 5-star read for me. But I had a big problem with the ending. This is going to get spoilery, so if you don’t want to get spoiled, don’t read the rest of the review!

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SPOILERS

So once we get towards the end of the book, Maddy decides that living in her house isn’t enough – she wants to go out and explore the world and is totally fine with the idea that it can (and likely, will) result in her death. But she convinces Olly to go to Hawaii with her and while she’s there, she gets really sick and ends up in the hospital. Her mom comes and gets her and brings her back home, meanwhile making her feel really guilty for risking her life after all her mom has sacrificed for her. So far, no problems.

BUT THEN a few days later, Maddy gets an email from one of the doctors that was treating her while she was in Hawaii. This doctor tells her that none of her lab results indicate that she has SCID and the reason why she ended up sick was because she got a fungal infection and it affected her heart. Again, no SCID. WHAT? So Maddy is obviously concerned, but also skeptical, thinking this must be a mistake. So she goes to her mom and her mom kind of shuts down and basically tells her not to believe the doctor’s note.

Maddy gets suspicious. She thinks her mom is hiding something from her, so knowing that her mom keeps really detailed records for things, she starts going through her mom’s office, looking for proof that Maddy does, in fact, have SCID. But what she finds instead are doctor’s notes saying there are no problems with her immune system and no SCID diagnosis. Maddy ends up going to a doctor and confirming that she has been living a lie and doesn’t really have SCID. Her mom has been lying to her because after Maddy’s dad and brother died in an accident when she was a baby, her mom has been terrified of losing Maddy, too.

I had a problem with this. To me, it seemed really… lazy? Disrespectful? I’m not quite sure what word to use. I just didn’t like that this whole book was based on a girl with SCID and her struggle to accept her life indoors and then instead of her coming to terms with her illness and perhaps finding a way to still live a life that feels meaningful to her she just… isn’t really ill. Honestly, I really, really want to know how people who have chronic illnesses or disabilities feel about this because to me, it just seems like a slap in the face to them (but I also don’t want to make judgments on what is or isn’t good representation for a group that I’m not a part of). A quick google search hasn’t given me any reviews from chronically ill or disabled people, though. Even aside from any possible representation issues, it just seemed like a lazy way to resolve Maddy’s unhappiness.

EDIT: Tumblr user bookavid, who is chronically ill, made a post confirming my suspicions that this ending is insulting and offensive to people with chronic illnesses/disabilities. For that reason, I have now lowered my rating from 4 to 2 stars and will no longer be recommending this book. 12/13/16

END OF SPOILERS

Overall, Everything, Everything was a good book, if you completely ignore the ending. It was easy to read, full of great swoony moments (as well as heartbreaking ones), and was a great story. But the ending definitely disappointed me and, as I have shown, is offensive to people with chronic illnesses and/or disabilities. I look forward to reading more Yoon in the future, since she is clearly a talented writer, but I will not be recommending this book because of its problematic ending.


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