Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Book review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

What would you do if the bubble you’ve lived in all your life, is no longer big enough to contain all that you hope for?

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (first published in 2015 by Corgi)

Purchase a copy on Raru.co.za

Everything, Everything is a book that has been talked about and celebrated worldwide and it’s easy to see why.

The book ticks all the right boxes in terms of diversity, concept and beautiful writing.  And yet, for all the fuss that’s been made about the book, I found myself merely liking it, as opposed to falling madly in love with it the way the rest of my fellow bookish peers have.

Well, someone’s got to be the black sheep amongst the glow-y reviewers. Guess it just so happens to be my turn.

Oh, there was the beginning flutterings that I assume most people feel when they first fall in love, but the more I read the book, the more I realised that sometimes you need more than a suspension of disbelief to be wholly invested in a novel.

That, and the fact that this book has been hyped to the max, has probably not helped its cause.  I was promised fireworks; what I got was the mere flickering of a lone sparkle in the dark of the night.

But, having said that, Everything, Everything is not an altogether bad book.

In fact, one of the best aspects of this book is that it has a pretty jaw-dropping plot-twist - one that I totally did NOT see coming.  The dialogue is also filled with lots of banter, snark and witty rapport between the characters and the format of the book is an utterly delightful razzmatazz filled with quirky asides that will appeal to bibliophilic nerds at heart.

It’s cute, quirky and adorable and threads together themes of loss and love, abandonment and discovery. In short, it’s a book that will appeal to many and one that has already gained a massive fan base.

So, just what is Everything, Everything about?

Well, imagine if you suffered from a disease that affected your immune system so badly that even walking outside could potentially kill you. And imagine if you had to spend all of your days observing the world from a contained room, in a sterile house with just you, your mother and your designated nurse.

This is essentially the sum of Maddy’s life.

When the new neighbours move in, Maddy can’t help but be intrigued with the boy next door and his family. And Olly, well, Olly can’t help but be intrigued with the girl who never goes outside. So what do two youngsters, each with their own family intrigues, do to communicate?

Cue IM messages, e-mails, window screen messages and soon you have a budding and epic romance in the making.

Here’s my thing though: I get that young love is supposed to be this impetuous, heady and tempestuous wave of unending romantic feelings, but I, as much as I liked the characters, just simply wasn’t on board with the way this romance played out.

To me it felt the intensity of the emotions experienced were at odds with the time frame in which the two of them got to know each other. I’m not dismissing the fact that teens fall passionately in love at all – quite the opposite, really – but in this instance, I felt like the execution of the romance was a little too over the top to be sincere.

The actions of Maddy towards the middle and end of the book in a specific situation (being vague, sorry) only cemented this fact for me.

While I certainly liked Olly and Maddy, I didn’t particularly LOVE them or find them very memorable. There’s nothing about them that really stood out for me, and I guess, for me, well, Maddy could have just has well fallen in love with some random dude as much as anyone else.

And that, in essence is the whole problem that I had with this book. I know plenty of people who absolutely adored this book (and I’m really happy they love it in a way that I couldn’t), but the major points in this book was just something I couldn’t ignore, thus downgrading the book from a love, to a mere like.

However, don’t let my cynicism put you off. Perhaps I’m too jaded to appreciate the love story of this (I do wish there was more focus on the medical aspects of her illness, although I also kind of understand why it was so vague), but hopefully you’ll have more luck with this book than I did.

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