Book Review: Everything, Everything

Title:               Everything, Everything

Author:           Nicola Yoon

Publisher:      Alloy Entertainment

Published:     2015

Genre(s):        Young Adult

Pages:              369

Read Time:    8 Days (Recreational Reading Pace)

 

.::Publisher Summary::.

            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.

 

.::Personal Summary::.

            Madeline (Maddy) Whittier has SCID, which is a medical disorder that literally makes her allergic to everything. In order to live her life, she reads books over and over again to experience it from different perspectives as she grows up. Even though her interpretations change, her situation does not. She is still living inside of her white walls while her doctor mother and full-time nurse, Carla, care for her each and every day.

Maddy’s entire life is begins changing when a family moves in next-door and their son, Olly, captures Madeline’s attention. She studies the entire family’s schedule and forms a friendship with Olly through the Internet. As the attraction becomes more apparent, Carla takes a chance on Olly and lets him into Maddy’s life.

Once she meets Olly in person, Maddy refuses to accept the life she has been living. Everything is changing and she learns so much about herself, love, the world – and what her diagnosis really means.

 

AVERAGE RATING

*3 out of 5*

 

3-stars

 

The review of this book is based on 4 pre-determined categories (Technical, Creative, Recommendation, and Personal). These areas, unless otherwise specified, are reviewed as objectively as possible for the benefit of readers. This is the average rating between those categories. Below the line are the detailed explanations for the ratings of each category:

 

  • Technical (4/5)
  • Creative (2/5)
  • Recommendation (3/5)
  • Personal, Biased (3/5)

 

 

TECHNICAL RATING

*4 out of 5*

 4-stars

 

How easy this novel to read? Does everything make sense? Is there anything about the writing that would detract from the quality of the story?

 

There are genres for fancy writing, there are genres that require fancy writing, and there are authors famous for their fancy writing. Having the skills to share a story in such a dignified fashion is truly a feat, but also mostly irrelevant for this type of book. Young Adult fiction doesn’t generally work well when it is a grueling read. However, we all know the criticisms that Stephanie Meyer faced when people started questioning some of her less dignified phrasing and redundant descriptions. That being said, Young Adult fiction is more about the content of the story than anything else.

When considering the technical aspect of Yoon’s writing, there is nothing distinctly wrong with it. There was nothing in particular that stood out to me technically that was worth discussing so I have opted to instead describe the reasoning behind not giving her a perfect score. I will try to do this quickly, which will be in contrast to the pace that Yoon’s story took…

The climax of a story, as we are taught by our teachers, tends occur in the middle of the story. Realistically, this is rarely true. I’ve always felt the climax happens between 60-70% of the way through a novel. Of course, Yoon seems to think the plot-changing climax happens closer to 86% of the way through the story, if we’re being precise. I’m not saying that’s the worst place for a climax, but with the slow build of everything else it was hard to keep waiting and waiting and waiting for the big HOORAH to happen.

A late climax doesn’t prevent a book from being good, and some books with predictable story lines are better off putting a surprise twist closer to the ending of the book. This does not excuse, however, an ending that leaves so much to interpretation that it is hard to accept the abrupt ceasing of the narrative. Even though there is not much to spoil in this plot, even hinting at the content of our last page is enough to make reading the book pointless.

Despite finding plenty to be disappointed throughout, the writing of the book was done well enough. She was able to present the reader with a well-constructed plot at a pace that was complimentary to the presentation of the material. There are few things glaringly terrible about the actual work. Of course, her creativity rating is a completely different story.

 

CREATIVE RATING

*2 out of 5*

 2 stars

 

Is the message of this story unique? Did the content of this text stand out to competitors in the same category? Was the quality of the content prioritized in the storytelling, or was the quantity of content seemingly the most important thing?

 

Don’t get me wrong, readers; I was pleased to see the presentation of this book. It was a sort of “mixed media” format, if you will. There were chat logs and emails, handwritten notes and pictures of exhibits. I absolutely loved that about ‘Everything, Everything.’ Other than that, though, I was left yearning for more of pretty much EVERYTHING else.

I am just going to go down a list I have handy of things that left me less than impressed. That should be the easiest way to hit each of the points without dragging on, and on, and on about the same things. So let’s just start with the characters…

Maddy and Olly are our lovebirds, the teens we’re rooting for to find happiness together. The sad thing for readers is that they are these pre-packaged characters thrown together in an all-too-familiar way. Maddy is our teenager working through this coming-of-age experience from a tragic background filled with distant loss. Olly is equally depressing as he comes from a home with a physically abusive father. This prompts the standard ‘emo’ persona of philosophical thinking and risky behavior to maintain control over something in his life. I felt as I read each page that these were characters I’ve seen before in a hundred different ways.

Although, let’s give major props to Yoon for giving us a much needed dose of interracial romance. On a side rant, the entertainment business is lacking in diversity. I was excited to have a woman of color as our main character. Too often we are left with white men and women dominating hero storylines, or taking on huge tasks that would be difficult on any ordinary person in the world. Diversity isn’t just NEEDED – I believe it is MANDATORY. We should all be doing more to ensure that the variety of peoples in the world is reflected on screen and translated in texts. It is the very least we can do with our talents!

The next thing I was not particularly excited about was the awkward sex stuff. Even though Yoon does a great job of depicting the sex experience between teenagers who are head-over-heels in love with bundles of tensions, the three-page span of the event and its aftermath was difficult to read. Perhaps it is because sex is uncomfortable for me as a whole, but I also think the weird dialogue after made it positively cringe worthy. It actually made me question Olly’s character and his relationship with Maddy.

Finally, I found the majority of the book to follow a similar vibe to ‘The Fault in Our Stars.’ Being compared to John Green in any way is far from an insult, but when something resembles more widely known works it is hard to consider the content original. Like Hazel, Maddy is very ill and has been her entire life. She meets Olly, this off-beat sort of guy who fits the stereotype matching his most prominent personality trait, resembles the confident-to-a-fault Augustus. Olly, again like Augustus, is just fine and “shouldn’t fall in love” with a sickly person because of the emotional damage. Then damn it all, they fall in love anyway and engage in cautious sex before returning to their normal life to face total devastation.

To avoid any major spoilers for either piece, I will simply say that this is where things depart in the comparison. In my humble opinion, it never felt as though the deviation was enough. I wasn’t nearly as moved with this book as I was with ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ when reading about Maddy and Olly. I liked their relationship for the most part, but it wasn’t as fantastical.

The only redeeming bits of creativity come in the plot twist I mentioned earlier. I am rarely taken aback by plot twists, and even though I did see this one before it was revealed (and I really hope you do too if you read it), it wasn’t something I was expecting before I started the book. I enjoy predicting the plots twists of books before reading them, you see, but I wasn’t close at all with this book. Yoon deserves applaud for this detail without question.

 

RECOMMENDATION RATING

*3 out of 5*

3-stars 

 

Would you feel comfortable recommending this novel to others to read? What would you say about it to others? Will this book stay with you for a long period of time?

 

Shamefully, I will recommend a book based on pretty much anything. You like cooking? Here’s this great cookbook by one of my favorite chefs! You’re interested in anime? I’ve seen really great reviews about this one in particular that hasn’t gained much popularity yet. You’re a gamer and I thought you’d be interested in this book that is similar to this game’s premises. Generally speaking, it doesn’t take a whole lot for me to recommend a book.

Advocate for a book? That is a completely different story. I advocate that everyone should read at least one of John Green’s novels. I advocate that reading Harry Potter should be a part of the English curriculum. I advocate that fanfiction should be taken more seriously than it is in the literary market. What I don’t advocate for is this book.

Don’t get me wrong; Yoon did a solid job producing a novel that fits perfectly into this Young Adult romance genre that is so popular. Teenagers need positive stories about romance. I believe it helps them in their hormonal minds to sort out what is healthy and what is not healthy. For me, there’s not unhealthy about the relationship between Olly and Maddy. If more teenagers saw relationships such as this one – ones that endure and persevere – it would help them avoid toxic and abusive relationships, I think.

If we backtrack to the comparison with ‘The Fault in Our Stars,’ some people may not want as intense of read as that piece. If that is not the kind of book someone wants to read because of how emotional it gets, this is a fantastic alternative. And – added bonus – the ending is much happier! Spoiler, I suppose, but not really.

Another really good thing about this book is that the read is not tedious. Some books require more awareness and thought than others, but this book is a casual time-passer. Sometimes as readers we just need something fluffy and simple.

I would recommend this book to most anyone who loves to read YA fiction. This genre can get repetitive but passionate readers flock to things with which they are familiar. Nothing says that we shouldn’t or that we can’t, so there is nothing wrong with this practice. As I said earlier, I also love that it’s not just another white girl struggling with the woes of life and being a teenager. ‘Everything, Everything’ is a good read all things considered.

 

PERSONAL & 100% BIASED RATING

*3 out of 5*

3-stars 

 

How did you like this text? Was this worth your time reading? Was there anything about it that you were found unappealing? What would you change about this work?

 

I grappled for over a week while preparing this review how I wanted to rate each section. I discussed with others how I felt about the book out loud, churning over the same details I’ve repeated in this review. Torn down the middle, it feels, so I still can’t decide how I really felt about this novel.

The biggest quarrel I have about this text is that in so many ways is plain. I want more of everything. I want more conflict, I want more development, and I want more explanation. First person narration can be very limiting, and I really am not fond at all of reading it (or writing it). Still, it can make for some fantastic narration if the author does it well. I felt that while Yoon has marketable work, it did not stand out within this particular category.

Mediocrity deserves to be represented, and I struggled with complaining about the simplicity of this text. Not everything is lovers dying, cities crashing down, and aliens abducting us, so having a plot that fits a more realistic scenario is something I can admire. Of course, there’s a debate within that concept. How ordinary is Maddy’s situation? There’s a list of ways that it can be completely realistic, and a whole list of ways that is more dramatic than the everyday experience.

Yoon manages a pretty great plot twist, and the result of that also adds fuel to the inner debate I keep having about ‘Everything, Everything.’ I believe that Maddy’s choices are what any other teenager in the world would make when presented with the same obstacles. The relationship that Maddy and her mother have and the way it changes throughout this story are reflective of ANY situation where a parent and child go through a traumatic event together.

I may never have a clear emotion one way or another with this text. Rating it 3 stars was the best route simply because different aspects of the story affected me differently. Some details had me jumping for joy while others had me cringing in a corner. While I don’t plan to read this book again, I can’t say it was a waste of my time. And that’s my only real goal when reading a book of any sort.

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