For every book we read during the book club, we’ll write a review so that anyone who couldn’t be there can still join in with the fun! Saskia den Ouden is our new YA book club reviewer, judging all the books we read.
Everything Everything is one more book in the YA trend of illness-ridden teens. There are a few differences though. For one, she’s not beautifully dying of cancer. And two, her adventure of a lifetime mostly takes place in her own house.
For those who haven’t read the book, a quick synopsis:
Madeline is an 18 year old girl who grew up in a protective bubble that is her house. As a baby she was diagnosed with SCID (Severe combined immunodeficiency), which means any virus or pathogen could kill her. She is very zen in her life, being home-schooled and spending a lot of time with her mom (who is also Maddy’s doctor) and her nurse Carla. Maddy doesn’t have any other family members, because her father and brother died in a car accident when she was only a few months old. This changes when Olly moves next door with his family and she starts a friendship with him over IM. For the first time she starts to get really curious about Outside and the world she lives in, but isn’t a part of.
Whether you like sick-lit or not, there are a few things even the most derisive person has to admit. It’s a pretty original book and it reads very fast. Nicola Yoon combines storytelling with doodles, IM-conversations, Maddy’s medical charts and tumblr posts. It helps to move the story along at a nice pace and we get to know the main character pretty well.
On the other hand, it really reads like a debut novel. Aside from her mother, Olly and maybe Carla, we don’t really get to know anyone else. Characters are introduced and discarded as fast as you can turn a page (in the case of nurse Evil, quite literally) and may add some light drama, but don’t do a lot plotwise. There were also some gross oversights that bothered me specifically, because I come from parents who are predominantly active in the medical field. I will try not to spoil too much, but you should have some questions surrounding Maddy’s primary caregivers. An interesting bit of trivia: my mother (a former nurse) called the plottwist when I told her about the book, without reading it. This also serves to point out, that the situation is not okay.
One thing I will commend Yoon on is her use of parallels between Maddy and Olly. Their family lives are very different, but that makes the comparisons both metaphorical and literal more striking.
This book is a good first try for a debuting author, but there is a lot of room for her to grow.
If you enjoy reading about sickly teenagers, this book is a good variation om that theme. But if this trend annoys you, you can definitely skip Everything Everything, because you won’t miss out on much.