I read Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything in one big, delicious gulp. I was drawn to the book by the cover illustration, the Everything in a simple blue san-serif font on a white background and then again, right below in a white on a profusion of flowers, colors, birds, waves and joy. A book with that cover had to be wonderful, and so I picked it up at the library without even reading the blurbs. Well, technically, part of the reason I did not check the blurbs was that my head was so congested I was feeling dizzy and muddled and incapable of decision-making, so I was also kind of piling on the books willy-nilly. But in the end, the cover is what drew me to it.
And I am glad for it. I loved this book. Reading it was an act of joy from beginning to end. It is the story of Madeleine, a young woman who has reached the advanced age of eighteen without ever experiencing life. Diagnosed in infancy as suffering from SCID, the boy-in-the-bubble disease, she has grown up carefully protected by her mother and her nurse, never leaving her air-filtered home with its air-lock and decontamination process for everyone who enters. She studies with on-line teachers on Skype and lives a secure, antiseptic life.
Then one say people move into the house next door, a family with a son her age. Olly and she begin an online chat friendship, accompanied by window charades and eventually even face to face, no touching conversations. He awakes Madeleine to life and possibility of love and eventually to daring to risk everything for love.
I also love that this is a story of a multi-racial African American girl who is happy, who is clever as Hermione, as brave as Pippi, and as lovely as an Disney princess. Her ethnicity is incidental to the story. It just is part of her identity, not all of her identity, not defining her or driving the plot.
Madeleine and Olly have other hurdles aside from her illness. His father is an abusive drunk. She hides their friendship from her mother. For some, it will be disappointing. This is not a book about learning to live with disability or disease, and I think young people with disabilities or debilitating illnesses who might be drawn to this story looking for a protagonist with whom they identify may feel betrayed. Parents might disapprove of the book because all the best things happen when Madeleine disobeys. But it is a book full of joy and for that, I loved it.
This is a Young Adult book, but this adult loved it anyway. I loved Madeleine’s cleverness and humor. I loved the illustrations, her Spoiler Reviews of the classics. They are very short. For example, The Little Prince: “Love is worth everything. Everything.” I love the instant messages, the e-mails, the writing in the fog on the windows and the play with form and style. This book is lively and full of hope in the power of love to conquer all.