Yoon, Nicola. Everything, Everything. New York: Penguin Random House, 2015. Print.
Seventeen year old Maddy has never been outside her house. She has been confined for her entire life due to an illness where she is essentially allergic to everything. The only people she talks to are her mother and her nurse, Carla. She would give nearly anything to be able to go outside and meet someone new. Then one day a new family moves in to the house next door, and Maddy becomes interested in Olly, the son. Maddy has never even spoken to a boy before, and her mother certainly won’t let her meet Olly. But as Maddy becomes more infatuated with him, she becomes more and more desperate to see what she’s missing outside.
First off, to stick with my diversity theme, Everything, Everything’s main character, Maddy, is African American. I can’t remember the last time I read a book with an African American main character. Many of the books I see with people of color usually have some sort of urban theme or they are depicted as troublemakers. Maddy was a completely normal teenager, or as normal as she could be while dealing with her illness. She was extremely intelligent and I believe she reacted realistically to whatever she was faced with.
Olly was a perfectly fine love interest. He wasn’t rude or snarky like so many other love interests in young adult books. He was a fully developed character, not two-dimensional, and I enjoyed reading about him. However, he had some issues with his home life, and I felt like that combined with Maddy’s illness was a bit much to cram into a 300 page book.
Something that made Everything, Everything even more interesting was the fact that it had some multimedia elements scattered throughout, such as graphs, handwritten journal entries, and drawings. Yoon’s writing style was beautiful, and these graphics added even more.
This would be a great book to teach in schools for many reasons. First, as I mentioned before, Maddy is African American. There is not nearly enough diversity in young adult literature, or literature in general. I can count on one hand the number of books I was required to read in school that featured a person of color as a protagonist. Yoon herself is from Jamaica. Diversity is important not only when thinking about protagonists, but authors, too.
I think students would really enjoy reading about Maddy’s life with a serious medical condition, albeit an uncommon one. There are also a few mentions of mental illness and whether someone’s actions are justified if the individual has some sort of a mental illness. I think these would be good discussion points, but for the sake of not spoiling the book, I won’t go into specifics. As far as age group, I think this would be best suited for juniors in high school. There aren’t many inappropriate aspects, but I think juniors and up would be able to have the most thoughtful discussions regarding some of the subject matter.
Overall, this is a very unique and interesting novel that teenagers would love.
As a quick aside, a movie adaptation is currently in pre-production. It will star Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) as Maddy and Nick Robinson (Jurassic World, The Kings of Summer) as Olly.