Friday, January 15, 2016

Book Review: Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon

Writing Quality: 3/5
Personal Enjoyment: 2/5
Wider Appeal: 4/5

So, this book. Everything, Everything has been on my to-read list since it came out. Honestly, that cover is absolutely gorgeous. I want to blow it up to poster size and put it on my wall, it's so pretty. And the premise is interesting: Madison is basically allergic to the world, and she lives with her mother in a house that's essentially a sterile bubble, visited every day by her nurse/care-taker, and infrequently by tutors and professors. It's always been this way, until a family with a son her age moves in next door, and Olly changes the way she sees the world. The story is told in diary entries, drawings, charts, and IM conversations. Very modern teen, and also surprisingly seamless and more than a little beautiful.

This book was unique in that its characters weren't both healthy, middle-class white teens. Madison is emphatically not healthy. She's also half Japanese and half African American, which is refreshing. It was, however, another drop into the growing pool of angsty realistic teen lit with lots of romance, and I felt like the things that were unique weren't enough to make up for the fact that there's so much of this stuff out there right now. Maybe I've just been reading too much teen lit lately.

I liked Madison, and I thought she was realistically dramatic and self-involved, as a teen should be. But every once in a while, the story (and Madison herself) just got a little too unbelievable. Madison has basically zero body-image issues, which I just couldn't believe, given that even a home-bound teen is going to be online and exposed to the media all the time. It's a pretty fantasy, but unrealistic. Also, why isn't she involved in any online communities? The Internet is an entire world unto itself, and a lot of sheltered/lonely kids find sanctuary and friends online. There's no way a teenager would only be online to shop and take classes.

I really enjoyed the sketches that David Yoon did for this book, and the way they were worked into the text. They were all simple black-and-white images (pen and ink?), and they added to the book without distracting from the story.

Overall, the book and the story were fairly average for modern teen lit, and the sheer averageness of it made it less enjoyable for me (I'm a high-maintenance reader, and I always want innovative writing). But I think the fact that there is a non-white female protagonist is important and appealing. We need more diverse books is not just a hashtag; it's a reality, and I think a lot of young people will read and enjoy this book simply because it puts a multi-racial character in the lead position of a normal modern novel.

I'd recommend Everything, Everything to anyone who's not sick of realistic teen fiction, readers who enjoy lots of romance, and readers who are ready for a story that's a little more upbeat than books like The Fault in Our Stars. :)

Recommended ages 12+. New York: Delacourt Press, 2015. Print. 310 pages. ISBN: 9780553496642.

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