Nicola Yoon novel starts ok, falls flat

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By: McKenna Graham, Columnist 

Book: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: Two Stars
Warnings for book: n/a

“Everything, Everything” is a YA contemporary by Nicola Yoon that follows the development of Madeline, an Afro-Asian teenager who lives with a life-threatening allergy that can be triggered by anything outside the confines of her bedroom. Her mother is a doctor. Her best friend is her nurse, and these are the only two people she really knows, because she hasn’t been outside their apartment in years.

And then: a moving truck pulls up next door. And then a boy her age jumps out. And then the story loses any hope of really being good.

Olly—her new next-door neighbor—is everything Augustus Waters is: conventionally handsome, charismatic, determined to break down the mental and emotional walls of the sick girl. But he lacks the quality of Augustus which I’ve labeled as “too wise for his age.” If you’ve read “The Fault in Our Stars,” and you’re looking for another book about love from the perspective of an ill girl, try “Everything, Everything.”

It has all the sympathy for the plight of the star-crossed lovers, and all the insta-love, and bonus: you don’t form an emotional attachment to any of the characters because they’re all underdeveloped and unrealistic, so there’s no need to worry for their safety.

I didn’t hate this book. It does well in its attempt to present diverse characters, unusual situations, and complicated family dynamics.

The problem is that, not only did it not focus on any of these, but it actually renders them almost entirely inconsequential. That’s not to say that the family dynamics and the unusual situation aren’t important, it’s just to say that they don’t feel as if they have too much of an impact on the story at all. The novel presents you with an intriguing situation—girl is a voluntary Rapunzel—and then ruins it with what feels like the most insignificant and bland characters. I didn’t get the sense that any of these characters were real, or that this was anything but an attempt by a new author to break into the YA world with a new and exciting concept.

What I’m saying is, even though it sounds interesting at first glance, it’s all been done before. Yes, the plot is a slight variation, but the characters are cookie-cut from other stories and reading them feels flimsy and insubstantial. Olly is described in such a way that he sounds like the most stereotypical emo kid ever, wearing all black clothing and an unapologetic attwitude. And, of course, Madeline is instantly enamored.

She and Olly develop a relationship as well as they can. Her mother disapproves. His father is an alcoholic. Her nurse drops little nuggets of Spanish wisdom. A plan develops. Have we not seen all of this before?

I was so disappointed in this book because it presented such a unique situation. It had so much promise—how will this girl overcome adversity without ever having left or ever leaving her home?—and then promptly ruined it with a cliché love story and something else I don’t want to spoil for you. But let me just say this: it wasn’t real. I hadn’t made up my mind until a very specific point in the plot, almost at the very end (which is why I won’t spoil anything), and at that point I had to put down the book for a bit because I was so exasperated.

Not only did I kind of see this plot twist coming, but it totally negated the entire premise, cheated me out of an overcoming-adversity story and resolved pretty much every problem perfectly.

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