Nothing, Everything, and All Ranges In Between

“Sometimes you do things for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong ones and sometimes it’s impossible to tell the difference.”

This review is particularly special for me; it’s my first one as an official college student! I’ve been at Elon University for a month, and to say I’m loving it would be an understatement. Let me elaborate on why exactly this review, this book is so special to me: every single day I’ve experienced a seemingly new midlife crisis revolving around my major and career choice—because in typical Nicole Fashion, I’m panicking over not having my entire life mapped out to a T when I’ve only been at college for a five weeks. Every English major I’ve encountered seems to know exactly what they’re going to do with their life, and it seems so grand: “I’m going to be a poet.” “I know ohsomuch about the history of literature from the beginning of time and I’m going to use it to be the ~best~ English major ever.” And so on and so forth in a way that makes my book publishing/I-have-no-fucking-idea-I-just-want-to-do-something-with-YA aspirations seem… subpar. At this particular moment, Everything, Everything feels like everything to me. It’s spared me from a Thursday afternoon midlife crisis. It has completely solidified my choice to devote the rest of my life to the YA community.

Maddy is an eighteen-year-old California native—or perhaps it would be more fitting to say she is a native to the inside walls of her house. As a young child, after the sudden death of her father and brother, she was diagnosed with SCID. Essentially, she’s a Bubble Case. Allergic to the outside world, and condemned to live within the confines of her perfectly filtered, germ-free home with her doctor mother and nurse Carla. The mundanity of Maddy’s life is cyclical to the point of insanity, but what else can you do when it’s all you’ve ever known? The perpetual dullness has lasted her eighteen years, but with the sudden introduction of the whirlwind that is Olly, Maddy’s bubble-inhabited life will never quite be the same.

I intend for the rest of my review to contain spoilers, so if you’re not about that life this is all you really need to know: Read this book. I’m not kidding. Do it. From the beginning it comes across as the stereotypical and predictable YA model, but the ending hits you so hard it’ll leave you crushed by the weight of its importance.

OKAY, so now that that’s out of the way, on with my spoiler-filled review…

As much as I love YA, I am frustrated out of my mind with YA. Every story seems to be the same: girl meets boy, girl and boy fall in love, terrible thing happens that jeopardizes their love, and finally the theme is revealed in too rushed of a way as said terrible thing tests said love. In the beginning, that’s exactly how I believed Everything, Everything would pan out.

The chapters are brief in a way that makes them feel disconnected, and at times rushed. In no way am I deeming this a criticism, though, because I believe it was a purposeful choice on Yoon’s part: The brevity of these flashes into Maddy’s world allow readers to feel the pressing issue of her shortened life. I loved it.

In my honest opinion I feel that Olly lacked any serious character development, but he was so metaphorically integral—or maybe this could just be my overly-metaphoric mind looking too far into things—to the story that I was easily able to overlook it. He is both a creator and a destroyer. The miniature universe he built alludes to the hands of God, while his black clothes mixed with the danger he adds to Maddy’s life also relate him to the Devil. Is he good, or is he bad? Clearly through both Maddy’s thoughts—he quite literally colored her world. Sorry for the cliché but so. freaking. cute. –and the way his love for her comes across, it’s obvious that the benefits outweigh the harm. (Yeah, I’m most likely looking WAY too far into things.) Even a day after finishing the novel I’m still kind of unable to fathom Olly, but I think that’s the part of him I like the most.

This book transformed itself from being all of what I expected to absolutely none of it–from everything to nothing, and this transformation is what made it everything. So delicate is the balance between full and empty, and the triviality of this concept fulfilled me in the way I always hoped, but never expected.

Nicola Yoon covered so many important topics in Everything, Everything, the most predominant of which are the ideas of making life worth it, and living the life you want despite the risks because it’s too precious of a gift to waste; but this isn’t the theme that I felt to be the most important. The Making Life Worth It aspect led me to examine another that I feel hasn’t been covered as much, and perhaps isn’t as… cliché: the topic of selfishness versus selflessness. All Maddy wanted was to be able to live a normal life (a completely healthy selfish), but when life basically hands her a grand Screw You she screws life right back by jeopardizing her health for a chance to truly live (a slightly more selfish act of selfishness). Maddy neglected to take into account that her life, or lack thereof, did not exist independently; it was intertwined with her mother’s, and Carla’s, and more recently Olly’s. This was most interestingly seen as the end of the book came to center around a conflict that wasn’t even the main character’s, but seemingly was all at the same time. Maddy’s actions, although truly understandable and genuine, were selfish. As were her mother’s. As were Olly’s. We will do anything to protect the things that mean everything to us, even if that means putting our own selfish acts first. Is there a way to be selfless and selfish at the same time? At what point must one take priority over the other despite the damage that will be done? I’m not sure. I’m not sure anyone really knows, but this food for thought was the most important take away I got from this stunning novel.

So, this turned into a lot more of an analysis than it did an actual review, but the way I can put it best is by saying that Everything, Everything is one of those books that makes you feel rather than understand. It made me feel nothing, and everything, and all ranges in between. For a moment this book really was everything, and that has done nothing but help solidify YA as the truly unstoppable force it has grown to be today.

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