A few months ago I read a young adult book about love. A common enough subject – but Nicola Yoon’s debut novel, Everything, Everything is different. It’s not only about love between two young people experiencing its joys and challenges for the first time, but other kinds of love as well.
Maddy is a 17-year-old – half Japanese and half African-American – girl who has never gone to school or the mall or to a friend’s birthday party. She has a rare disease that requires her to live indoors in a climate-controlled apartment. I was thinking about similarities to The Fault in Our Stars as I started reading, but Yoon’s novel is something different.
As Tolstoy said, “All great literature is one of two stories: a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” So I knew that Maddy’s unquestioning acceptance of her situation was going to be challenged when a “stranger” (in the form of a new family moving next door) “comes to town.” Among the family members is Olly, the first boy Maddy has ever known.
I wondered how Yoon was going to connect Rapunzel with her neighbor, but seeing each other through a window solves that problem. And it’s not long before Olly holds up a sign with his email address for Maddy to see. She writes first: “Hello. I guess we should start with introductions? My name is Madeleine Whittier, but you can tell that from my e-mail address. What’s yours?” And that’s it – a conversation and a challenge begin.
Yoon fills her novel with e-mails and IM messages and Maddy’s health charts and schedules and lots of other stuff which provide energy and immediacy to the story. I found myself turning the pages faster and faster to see how this impossible situation was going to resolve itself. But there are some twists and turns along the way.
Everything, Everything will be published on September 1. I recommend it to readers ages 13 and over because spoiler alert: they find a way to get together!
Yoon’s novel was just given a starred review from Kirkus and it is the September selection of the Parnassus (Ann Patchett’s independent bookstore in Nashville) Young Adult Book Club.