I’ll admit it. I picked up Everything , Everything after watching the trailer with Amandla Stenberg. I am not ashamed.I listened to the full audiobook in about a day. This meant I missed some of the graphics and added art, but I console myself with the amazing reading by Bahni Turpin.
Being someone who does not read contemporary often, I had no expectations but, in spite of some of its problems, I enjoyed it.
Madeline, Maddy really, owes her life to HEPA filters, decontamination rooms, her nurse and her mother, the doctor, who helped diagnose her with Severe combined immunodeficiency or SCID. For much of her life she is content with her books, architecture classes and games of honor pictionary with her mother. Then a boy moves across the street.
Nicola Yoon penned some memorable moments and charmed me with her main character. Maddy’s voice is so pleasant to
read listen to that I didn’t even mind when her and the boy’s, Olly, relationship teetered toward the border of instalove.
Everything Everything has been heralded by some as one of the best reads for representation of biracial characters (Madeline). Madeline’s race is neither ignored/tokenized nor is it made her most defining feature. On the other hand, Yoon’s plot choices and those choices effects have been sharply criticized by some who face similar health challenges (spoilers on this site).
Yoon tried to tackle some pretty big themes in Everything Everything, and how these themes are handled are usually front and center of the criticisms. The book after Olly revolves around Maddy’s internal conflict, namely the choice between risking her life and living a life full of wanting to do things she cannot. The post-Olly part of the book is scattered with quotes like: “Just because you can’t experience everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experience anything.” and You’re not living if you’re not regretting.” and “I was happy before I met him. But I’m alive now, and those are not the same thing.” or even “There’s more to life than being alive.” Yoon wrote so many lines like that I felt as if she reached her hand out and pasted “grow and live” across my forehead. It is fortunate, for most of the book, that these are only scattered and Yoon has a number of other strong lines and quirky moments that are classic contemporary YA. What is unfortunate is the message she spent so long constructing, the internal struggle Maddy spends most of the book struggling with, is perhaps a little cheapened by the end.