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Book Review – Everything, Everything

I’ll never get to the end of all the ways I want to be with him.

Ah, young love. 

This is one of those novels where you realize, with excruciating clarity, just how intoxicating it can be. 

Everything, Everything is about Madeline Whittier, a girl who is basically allergic to everything. Fated to a life inside her house, Madeline knows better than to want things. Because wanting leads to more wanting, and Madeline can’t afford to fall into that endless pit of desire. But then a young boy moves in next door, and Madeline is forced to realize the life she’s living isn’t a life at all. And the life she wants to live is worth risking her lifeless-life for. 

It was good. 

I definitely liked it. 

Something odd occurred though. As I noticed the quality of the writing getting better, the story sort of began to fall away. The ending made virtually no sense. I felt like my book was missing pages when it wasn’t. So instead I was forced to just assume the main character had resolved and worked some things out in her head without sharing them. Which sucked. I wanted a resolved finale. I wanted everything to fit into its place. But it all just kind of fell apart and never came back together. 

Make no mistake, however, the author, Nicola Yoon, has a strong debut in this novel. Her writing is pretty. It flows together. It’s funny and inviting. It’s moving and relatable. It started off great, and only got better. That’s how debuts work. You’ll notice it as you read more of them. You can see the inexperience and timidness turn into bold brush strokes and professionalism as the author tests his or her boundaries. By the end I was reading a polished novel by a seasoned writer. 

Nicola Yoon has that burdening gift: literary prose. And she–pardon my French–made it her bitch. It was never too much. It was always just enough. 

You guys know how much I love books that explore the universe and time, and this book explored both. Olly, the love interest, constructed universes on his roof. Madeline built mini malls with astronauts as customers. They floated off together into the nothing that became everything when they kissed. And they seemed to connect as if the two of them were creating the universe together. 

They never fell into a mold. And it would’ve been so easy for Nicola to ruin them with cliches, but she didn’t. The only cliche, which can never truly be a cliche as it is the only thing in this world stronger than the world itself, was the first time love. It destroyed everything Madeline thought she knew. 

You gotta love that though. That is first love. Flawless and completely cataclysmic. 

He tells me that high school is no utopia, but I’m not convinced. What else would you call a place that exists solely to teach you about the world?

It doesn’t matter if she’s pretty or not.

It matters that she feels the sun on her skin. She breathes unfiltered air. It matters that she lives in the same world Olly does, and I don’t. I never will.

Madeline was so naive and the naivety worked for her. How Nicola put herself in a girl trapped from the outside world’s headspace is beyond me. Because only that girl would be silly enough to believe high school is some perfect institution built for bettering our youth. 

She got jealous, and it was like we were exploring jealousy for the first time. This really foreign type of jealousy. The innocent kind. Where you have no right and every right in the world to be jealous because you don’t know any better and you believe the universe revolves around you. 

She was such a jealous mess, yet she did that thing where she refused to acknowledge the jealousy, and oh, how I can remember trying to be that heroic romantic in my day. 

I loved the metaphors. The theories and math. She wove these complicated thoughts into a juvenile story quite soundly, not enough to derail you for the night and have your brain spinning, but just the right amount to make you think a little bit. And I love books that make me think. That make me pause and contemplate, reread a sentence for no good reason other than, I want to understand it more. 

Before him my life was a palindrome–the same forward and backward, like “A man, a plan, a canal. Panama,” or “Madam, I’m Adam.” But Olly’s like a random letter, the big bold X thrown in the middle of the word or phrase that ruins the sequence.

Madeline was totally pretentious with her word choice, but it worked for her. Because she didn’t know any better. She was forced to explore words and writing instead of exploring the world. Plus, Olly ate it right on up, so all the more power to her. When I talk like that, people mostly look at me like why are you still talking. 

Great setting. Great description. Of course when you’re a great writer, this all just comes to you. I always knew exactly where Madeline was, and what her five senses were picking up. This is not something I see in a lot of books. So bravo. First novel in a while I’ve been able to praise for that accomplishment. 

The world is so quiet it roars.

Late-afternoon sun cuts a trapezoid of light through the glass window. I look up and see particles of dust drifting, crystal white and luminous, in the suspension of light.

Did you just gasp? Because me too. Normally I wouldn’t need a tiny detail like that, but here, I’m so glad she provided it. 

Another interesting thing about this novel: the illustrations, and the short chapters. 

I usually hate short chapters. They don’t build how I want them to and they almost always provide some obstacle when it comes to momentum. But in this instance, it didn’t cut up the action, more like it pushed you through. It got you to the finish line. You didn’t jump ahead a million times to see when Olly and Madeline would finally kiss because you weren’t feeling like there were a million long-winded monologues keeping you from that moment. 

The IM messages were awesome. I am a HUGE fan of IM messages in books. I used to have these books where the entire story was told through IMs, I need to get new copies, because I loved the shit out of those.

Anyway.

It was well-paced. Everything happened when it was supposed to. As far as outline, this novel was near perfectly plotted. 

But man did it die out. Even though there’s a GIANT plot twist, it dies out. The story began to implode, I began to wonder where on earth it was taking me, and when it finally got me there, I couldn’t have been more disappointed. 

The ENDING. I just can’t get over how odd and completely random it was. It did not fall into line with the rest of the book. It sort of came from left field. The author either gave us too much credit and figured we would just UNDERSTAND or she forgot about us all together not caring whether we would understand or not.

Either way, I don’t get it. 

After endless pages of beautiful words, great dialogue, characters falling into this all-encompassing love, I did not want the bullshit ending I got. 

The first half of this book was beautiful and infinite, like the ocean she constantly made mention of via metaphor. The last half was great writing-wise, but the story just wasn’t there anymore. It just. Wasn’t. 

And the title. Guys, this is the first time in a really long time where I hate the title. 

This title makes no sense. It really doesn’t. I’ll wait for someone to explain it to me. Until then, I’ll be in the dark. 

I don’t know whether I want to recommend this book. 

I think I’ll recommend to any readers who still like Jennifer Niven after she released Holding Up the Universe.

30/38

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