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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon. Doubleday Canada, Random House. 2015. $21.99 ages 12 and up

"Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you could just change one thing?" he asks. Not usually, but I'm starting to. What if I weren't sick? What if my dad and brother hadn't died? Not wondering about impossible things is how I've managed to be relatively Zen. "Everyone thinks they're special," he says. "Everyone's a snowflake, right. We're all unique and complicated."

Madeline's story is one that I will not soon forget. She suffers with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (baby bubble disease) and is protected from the rest of the world in a house that is sealed tight and very sterile. Her mother reasons it will keep her alive. She has a nurse who stays with her while her physician mother works. Carla is a kind and loving mentor. She has her mother who loves her and wants only what is best for her. She may be lonely, but she is content with the life she must live.

Then, Olly moves in next door, and life becomes much more complicated. Madeline is immediately drawn to him, while knowing that any relationship is impossible. Or is it?

Through IM, text and email messages, she and Olly grow a relationship of sorts. Telling the story in first person assures immediacy, and will appeal to its target audience. Readers will relate to the authentic voice and the problems inherent in wanting to know Olly better. As her feelings grow, her frustration about the life she lives does, too. She wants to spend time with Olly; not on the Internet, but in person.

We learn much about the two, and their family dynamics. Madeline's father and older brother were in a car crash and died when she was a baby. She cannot remember anything about the physical world beyond the walls of her home. Her world comes from what she learns in books, on the Internet and by watching television. Olly is a brilliant mathematician, and full of energy. We learn that his father is abusive; Maddy happens to see one of his angry altercations. Olly makes Maddy think about her world and the one she hasn't experienced. It's very easy to root for the two of them.

The pace for the telling is quick, the characters are memorable and sincere, the emotions will be familiar to a teen audience, the sympathy felt for all of the story's characters is strong and heartfelt.
Diversity is evident, but treated as factual not essential to the trajectory of this beautifully written  debut novel.

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