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.
Everything Everything is a wonderful book about taking risks and living life to its fullest potential. While it did tackle some serious issues, the overall tone of the book for me was quite light-hearted and it felt very refreshing. This book made me feel so hopeful and happy that I forgave some of its flaws.
I was very intrigued from the first time I heard about this book and I preordered it way back in May. I’ve read a lot of contemporary books about mental illnesses and one trope that we see a lot of is the ‘love cures all’ trope. I was interested in Everything Everything because our main character, Maddy, suffers from a physical illness that can’t be magically cured by love. I’ll get into this a little bit more later in my review.
I want to talk about the cover of this book first. I’ve heard so many positive comments about the cover and I didn’t understand why everyone thought it was so beautiful until I had it in my hands and was able to look at it up close. This cover is stunning! The illustrations are so intricate and everything on that cover is related to something that happens in the book (cover illustrations by Good Wives and Warriors). I also have the American hardcover edition and the jacket has that buttery texture. It’s one of the best covers I’ve seen in the last couple of months.
This novel also contains beautiful illustrations throughout it and these are actually done by Nicola Yoon’s husband, David Yoon. I thought the illustrations added a lot to the story and really enhanced it. This book is written in very short chapters, sometimes only a page long, and is filled with notes that Maddy has written, as well as instant message exchanges between characters. I loved the different mediums that were added to the story. I thought it made the book fun and hopeful instead of serious and sad. The little notes and illustrations we got were my favourite part of the book.
So let’s discuss the plot and the themes. In Everything Everything, Maddy has a serious illness that prevents her from doing anything, including going out or even having visitors in her own home. She’s well and alive as long as she’s kept a prisoner in her own home, with only her mother (a physician) and her full-time nurse for company. We actually don’t get very much information about Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), which is the syndrome that Maddy has that makes her allergic to everything. There were times when I wished we had gotten a bit more information about SCID, just to satisfy my curiosity, but for the most part I was happy to accept the little information that we were given. I also sometimes prefer that books don’t go into a lot of detail and include a lot of jargon because I encounter so many books that misrepresent mental illnesses. So it’s probably better when authors don’t write too much about things they don’t know about.
For me, the last quarter of the book and the plot twist were kind of predictable. It was obvious to me that that was the direction that the plot would take. It’s probably the best way that everything could have turned out, but I almost wished that it had ended differently so things didn’t happen just to make the romance work. It was a bit disappointing that it still ended up being a bit of a ‘love cures all’ type of book. If you’ve read the book, let me know what you think (no spoilers, of course). There were also some things that I found VERY unrealistic, but I don’t want to spoil anyone so I won’t mention what they are.
I really loved watching Maddy grow in this book. She starts off as a pretty passive character but slowly grows into somebody who learns to take risks and experience the unknowns in order to truly be alive, even at the expense of her own life. I loved seeing Maddy appreciate things that I would normally take for granted and I enjoyed seeing the world through Maddy’s eyes as she encountered new things, such as travelling in a car for the first time. I liked her willingness to try new things. There were times when I felt she was being too reckless and it seemed too out of character for her to be risking her life for a few moments of fun. And I also felt that she was a bit inconsistent in her thoughts about whether she’d rather be trapped in a room or dead from doing things that normal people do. Examples below:
I’m on my way home, I’ll remain trapped there forever.
I’m alive, and don’t want to be.
Love can kill you and I’d rather be alive than out there living.
Overall, I really liked Maddy’s character. It was easy to connect with her and read from her point of view. She’s also a book nerd! There were times when I forgot she was 18 because of her innocence. But I loved that she was able to develop and start to take control of her own life. I thought Olly was a great romantic interest for Maddy. He’s very caring and loves his family, and he seemed like the perfect person for Maddy. I did think that their relationship was very insta-lovey and developed too quickly for my liking. It was understandable that Maddy would be drawn to Olly because he’s probably the first teenage boy she’s ever met, but I didn’t understand Olly’s interest in Maddy. They pretty much fell in love without even speaking a single word aloud to each other, and I didn’t think that was very realistic. I still thought they were adorable together and I loved reading about their relationship.
I liked how real the characters felt and that they each had their own issues to deal with. Olly’s father is mentally and physically abusive to his wife and kids, and that added an interesting dynamic to the story. The first half of the book makes a lot of emphasis on the black rubber band that Olly wears and keeps snapping on his wrist. That made me a little bit worried that he was suicidal, because snapping a rubber band against your wrist is a common behaviour that is used as a substitute to cutting. At this point, I was a bit worried about where the story was going to go, but luckily it never went in that direction. There were some mental health elements in the book, but they were never explored very far before the book was over. I do like that the novel had a very open ending. It was a very satisfying and cute ending to the book.
I have many more thoughts about this book but I should probably end it here. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will probably reread it again in the near future. If you’ve read Everything Everything, let me know if you agree or disagree with any of my thoughts!