I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Madeline is allergic to everything – like, everything everything (ha). Okay, not really. She has a disorder called SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency), “the result of an immune system so highly compromised that it is considered almost absent.” You and I know it more commonly as the bubble boy disease. Madeline lives (depending on your definition of ‘living’) with her mother in their airtight, pristine, sterile home. One step outside could kill Madeline. A brush of contact with someone from the outside world could end her life. So Maddy does what any of us would do with so much time on her hands – she reads. A lot. She lives vicariously through her books (something she and I have in common). One day after she turns 18, a new family moves in next door. One of the members of this family a boy named Oliver. Dressed in all black with a hot bod and some serious parkour skills, Olly is all Maddy can think about. Until thinking about him just isn’t enough. She has to meet him. Touch him. Breathe the same air he breathes. Day after day, her white-walled world isn’t enough anymore. She doesn’t want to be sealed in a bubble with her mom – she wants to live. Maddy decides that living her life – even for just a day or two – is more important to her than being alive in her non-life. She risks everything for Olly, for herself, for a chance to find out what it really means to be alive.
Nicola Yoon’s debut novel is everything (ha) I hoped it would be when I requested it on NetGalley. My little YA-loving heart was very pleased with the story of Maddy and Olly. I related to Maddy very easily. For one, she loved books and writing book reviews and tumblr, so I’m sure you can easily see the connection there. Also, her life was heavily monitored and restricted, and although my situation was definitely not that extreme, I do know what it’s like to be on the outside looking in (or on the literal inside looking out, in Maddy’s case). I wasn’t as easily taken with Olly from the get-go. At first he seemed a little too immature for my liking. It was an honest and accurate depiction of a teenage boy, so that’s probably why. However, my views changed as the novel progressed and we got to see more of his character. He was a really sweet boy and cared so much for his family and Maddy, despite his awful family situation and Maddy’s unfortunate disorder.
I also liked all the little drawings and doodles (illustrated by Nicola Yoon’s husband!), as well as Maddy’s own definitions of words (esp. ‘infinite’). Oh, and Phonetic Scrabble??? Coolest. Idea. Ever. Coming from an English major.
What I did not like was how absolutely instantaneously Maddy and Olly fell in love. I know this happens in all YA novels, but for some reason it just seemed too rushed this time. Maybe I’m just becoming more aware of how ridiculously quick it happens, but still, ugh. Maybe this is why all my friends hate YA. Also, a certain aspect of it was a little hard to believe, but I can’t talk about it without spoiling the big twist toward the end of the novel. I am hugely against spoilers, so I won’t say anything, but just keep in mind that some things will seem a little far-fetched. Oh yeah, and I did not like the fact that this bubble-girl was getting more action than me, a girl who lives in the real world and is not confined to her home. It’s probably because I’m confined to McDonald’s… (side note: this lady came through the drive-thru the other night and when she saw me she said, “I must come here a lot more than I thought, because you’re here every single time I come through,” and I told her, “No, it’s just I literally live here. I am always here. I work all day, every day.”)
So speaking of the twist, I did not expect that. I read a review on Goodreads where a girl was bashing the novel because of the twist and how it ruined the entire novel, but I disagree. Sure, it wasn’t what I expected, and it completely changed the course of the novel, buuuuuut I thought it was kind of clever and definitely drove home the point of the story: love makes us do crazy things, just as much as loss of love makes us do crazy things. And always remember the wise words of Carla: “Life is a gift. Don’t forget to live it.”
Favorite Quote(s)*: “I’ve read many more books than you. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve read. I’ve read more. Believe me.”
“Everything’s a risk. Not doing anything is a risk. It’s up to you.”
“One thing I’m certain of: Waiting just leads to more waiting. There’s no end to desire.”
*I read and reviewed and ARC edition of the novel – if anything is misquoted in comparison to the published version, please let me know.