What I Knew Going In
Nothing, nothing. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon has been pretty hyped. It was promoted a lot & loads of bookish people were talking about it & it was a very popular debut novel. I somehow managed to tune out most of the hype and literally only knew the title and author’s name. It was an e-book deal for $1.99, so I grabbed it, knowing that a better deal would never come along.
What It’s About
Madeline Whittier (Maddy) has SCID, a genetic disorder that means she basically has no immune system. Because of that, she lives in a completely sterile environment with just her mother and nurse. She reads a lot, plays silly games with her mom, and studies online. It’s a pretty happy life until a family with a teenage son moves in next door.
What I Thought
I was hooked really early in this book. Because I didn’t know anything about the plot, I had a lot of fun learning about Maddy’s disease and life. From a purely intellectual standpoint, I found the premise fascinating. I don’t see many YA books about something like SCID. And Maddy is a reader! The book is full of literary references, funny charts and drawings, and philosophical musings.
I think that Everything, Everything aspires to be the next TFIOS. It’s a beautifully tragic love story about a really sick girl, full of metaphor and smart conversations and really hard stuff.
But this book is not TFIOS. It lacks depth of character and only touches on the deep and meaningful themes that run under the surface. With another 100 pages, I think I would have really loved the story. But also, I really hate the ending (and not just because I don’t like what happens–I genuinely think it ruins the entire book). For more thoughts on why, I’ll add a spoilers-included discussion further down.
In short, good book that wants to be great, but isn’t. Yoon’s second novel, The Sun is Also a Star, comes out soon. Looks like she’s sticking with the smart/sweet love story, so maybe this one will be more complex and well-developed than Everything, Everything. I really hope so. All the pieces for a really excellent story were there, but they just weren’t quite right.
[SPOILERS] Let’s Talk About the Ending
I’m not sure I’ve ever been as upset about the ending of a book as I am with this one. (I probably have, but I don’t remember it right now.)
Here’s the thing. Yoon set herself up to do something really neat by placing her main character in a really difficult situation that was actually feasible. SCID is a real thing. There are Madeline Whittier’s in the world. By making Maddy’s SCID a figment of her mother’s imagination, she pulled a full-blown deus ex machina to give Maddy what she’s always wanted–a normal life. In fact, that normal life is the only way she gets her love interest.
And how twisted is that? Really sick people don’t get the deus ex machina ending. The SCID kids (and many others with different conditions) probably won’t find out that they really can have a completely normal life. Also, the implication that it’s too hard to love someone through sickness, with limitations? That’s very not okay.
I believe that YA readers can handle more. I believe that they don’t have to have a happily ever after ending. The teens I know are struggling with serious issues. Those issues won’t magically go away. They could use a book that helps them through the issues, not wipes them away.
So yes, it makes a great twist to the plot. Yes, it wraps things neatly in a bow. But I’m sorry, this ending is too wrong for me to suspend disbelief for. Please tell me someone else felt this way? I saw so many positive reviews about this book! I can’t have been the only one who was bothered by it. Let me know in the comments.