Everything Everything follows the story of Maddy- a teenager who’s spent her entire life shut off from the world due to a rare disease called severe combined immunodeficiency. SCID has weakened Maddy’s immune system to the point where any little thing – whether that’s the smell of a flower, or the touch of a hand – can make her sick. She lives in a white life, reading books and interacting only with her mother and her nurse, Carla. When a family moves into the house next door, Maddy gets to know the boy- Olly- through IM. They have a connection, but Maddy knows she’s stepping in dangerous waters.
Can they ever truly be together given how weak outside contact makes her? I have a lot to say about this book- most of which is negative. Most of my problems with this book revolve around thematic elements and Yoon’s lackluster – and frankly offensive – representation of disability. But we’ll get to that in a minute. The good: the beginning was a strong one. Everything Everything starts off with nothing short of a bang; the narrator’s voice is established from the get-go. We get interesting, cute illustrations and graphs, and the premise itself is so fascinating that you can’t help but devour the story. When Olly is introduced, you’re immediately drawn to his character too. The brooding, mysterious kid from a dysfunctional family… honestly, I was quite interested in every character belonging to his family too- that’s just how good the novel was set up. But unfortunately, Olly’s family never gets the development it deserved. And from a book seemingly about Maddy, her relationship with her mother and her nurse, her actual disability was largely pushed aside and was only brought up in a context of “oh, I want to be with Olly now.” This book became something I hadn’t anticipated:
a book about her and Olly.
I expected this book to be more wholesome. I wanted more from it. The romance felt rushed after the first few interactions; everything began to happen too quickly. Maddy’s infatuation with books is thrown out of the window. Her relationship with her mother is left dangling. Olly’s life at home is referred to in a couple of conversations and well-placed notes, but other than that, it’s largely ignored for cheesy one-liners. But that might not have been too bad if it weren’t coupled with all the offensive thematic material in this book. It wasn’t a story about a young boy and a girl falling in love and having to deal with the realities of Maddy’s sickness- which are things so many people all over the world go through. But in this story, Maddy’s disability becomes the single obstacle standing in between an otherwise perfect love story.
I got the impression that Yoon was saying, “Oh, imagine how perfect they would be, how happy and content if only she wasn’t sick.” I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. Framing a disability in a way that the main character cannot live or love with it is so, so harmful to the millions of people all over the world who are happy, who make their lives and relationships work. It made me cringe and fume- I cannot begin to imagine how young people who had picked this book up looking to see their lives reflected on the pages felt. I think it’s important to know exactly what’s wrong with this book on top of what’s already mentioned. Which I cannot really discuss without giving away part of the book. If you want to know why this book is problematic, read on. Rating a star and a half on our radar, we suggest read this book at your own leisure.
I have a lot to say about this book- most of which is negative. Most of my problems with this book revolve around thematic elements and Yoon’s lackluster – and frankly offensive – representation of disability. But we’ll get to that in a minute