by Nicola Yoon
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2015. 320 pages. Young Adult
Ever since she was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, or "bubble baby" disease, eighteen-year-old Madeline Whittier hasn't been able to leave her house. Her world's made up of two people: Her physician mother, and her nurse, Carla. Quite literally allergic to everything, Maddy's days are full of tutors who instruct her via Skype, books (lots and lots of books, no matter how much you've read, Maddy's read more than you), and Fonetik Skabbl games with her mother.
It's not until a new family moves in next door--bringing Olly into Maddy's world, a boy seemingly made of kinetic energy--that Maddy has her first encounter with someone outside her very insular life. Through a series of jokes involving an indestructible Bundt cake, Olly manages to get Maddy's email address. Emails lead to late-night IM chats, which lead to Maddy persuading Carla to let Olly into the airtight house (secretly, of course) . . . which leads Maddy to question everything about her existence, including the validity of a life lived in a bubble, without risk or without love.
Everything, Everything has been one of the most buzzed-about young adult books of 2015, and deservedly so; it's not often I pick up a book with the intention to read the first few pages, only to find myself turning the last one hours later. Despite the trials she faces, Maddy is a relentlessly optimistic, witty, and intelligent narrator, and her love for literature is apparent from the first page. Her relationship with her mother and nurse, Carla, are warm and believable, as is the gentle development of her relationship with Olly. I especially appreciated the subtle parallels Yoon drew between Maddy and space travel/astronauts, highlighting Maddy's alienation and separation from the rest of the world.
The artwork and mixed-media presentation of IM chats, emails, plane tickets, and other miscellany make this a great read for reluctant readers, too. Also of note: Maddy is biracial, half Japanese and half African-American, and Yoon handles (and celebrates) Maddy's heritage beautifully on the page. A must-read for YA contemporary fiction fans.