By Nicola Yoon
Published by Corgi / Random House Children’s Books
ISBN 978 0 552 57423 5
Maddy is allergic to the outside world. A single, solitary germ that the rest of us would brush off, could kill her. Suffering from severe immunodeficiency, she has lived for eighteen years in a sterile, sealed house looked after by her mother who is also her doctor. If she ventures outside this carefully controlled, germ-free environment and had any contact with anyone apart from her mother and her full-time nurse, she would become ill and most certainly die.
This is Madeline Whittier’s life, but not for one moment does she feel sorry for herself. She reads, plays Scrabble with her mother, has online lessons from tutors she will never meet, and rarely thinks about what she might be missing out there beyond her White Room. No one knows what triggers Maddy’s body to behave the way that it does, but everyone knows what the consequences would be if she were to step outside her ‘bubble’.
Novels about sick young girls are fast becoming a genre on their own, but Los Angeles’ author Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything is a very persuasive read that stands out from the rest because of Yoon’s non-sentimental and engaging writing. Maddy is the narrator of her own story, and she quickly engages and hangs onto the reader’s attention. But this is a novel, and something must be waiting round the corner to interrupt Maddy’s world.
A new family moves into the house next door, and Maddy starts watching the comings-and-goes from her bedroom. One day, she sees Olly for the first time, and her world is turned upside down. Olly is a handsome young man and Maddy is entranced. Olly sees the girl watching him from the window, and the two of them start to communicate first by hand signals, then by Instant Messaging and finally by email.
A romance is going to develop here, but how can it possibly progress? Olly makes moves to meet Maddy, but he is tuned away by her mother. But the young man is determined. Will Maddy risk everything to actually meet the boy-next-door who could become the love of her life or the agent of her death?
It is hard not to get caught up by Nicola Yoon’s tale of doomed love. Artwork by the author’s husband, lists and notes in Maddy’s handwriting, instant-messaging transcripts and lively dialogue make this a modern read full of tension and understanding.
But not everything works well. The plot takes a left turn three-quarters of the way through that is hard to buy, and the sudden twist Yoon tacks on at the end will have some readers groaning. These concerns apart, Everything Everything is a captivating romance that fans of the genre will devour in a single sitting.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com.