A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Everything, Everything tells the story of Madeline Whittier, an 18-year-old who can never leave her house. She has SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency), which means she's allergic to just about everything in the outside world. When a boy moves in next door, Madeline's Zen-like acceptance of her situation is turned upside down and she begins taking risks and wanting to live a life beyond the sanitized walls of her home. One teen character smokes, an adult drinks alcohol to excess, and characters lie to parents. There are scenes of domestic violence. The story has a few scenes of kissing, making out, and sex, and the foreplay and sex are described graphically. Swearing is infrequent (includes "s--t," "a--hole," "God," "Jesus," and "bastard"). This book is a good choice for readers looking for diverse characters; Madeline is of mixed race, with a Japanese mother and an African-American father, and her nurse is from Mexico.
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What's the story?
In EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING, Madeline Whittier is a self-described "bubble baby," which means she suffers from a rare disease called SCID, or severe combined immunodeficiency. She hasn't left her house in 17 years, and anyone who comes in must go through an airlock and long sanitation process before entering the contaminant-free home. Her brother and father were killed in accident when she was a baby, so her only relationships are with her mother and her nurse, Carla. Madeline is calm and accepting of her isolated life, reading books, taking classes online, and playing games with her mom. That changes when Olly moves in next door. They catch each other's eyes through the window, and through a series of pebble throwing and messages on windows, they strike up a friendship over the Internet and eventually fall in love. For the first time in her life, Madeline wants more than her safe, sanitized existence can give her. She struggles to decide whether it's worth risking her life to experience it fully. Her physical and emotional journey reveals much about who she is and the lives of those she loves.
Is it any good?
Thankfully, this isn't just another "sick teen" novel but a compelling romance and coming-of-age story told from Madeline's point of view, and she has a fun, engaging voice. She's kind, smart, and pragmatic about how she has to live due to her illness. When she breaks free of her "bubble girl" environment, she experiences the world's joy and wonder the average person takes for granted. Author Nicola Yoon uses Madeline's illness to good effect this way. So when Madeline meets the boy next door, the reader truly gets how it would shake up her world. She doesn't come across as a typical hormonal teen. We feel how badly she wants to see the world outside and experience things, even if those experiences could cause her pain, emotionally and physically. Olly, the boy next door, is a good, sympathetic character who's dealing with an abusive, alcoholic dad. Even though he and Madeline fall for each other pretty quickly, it's believable because they're both in unfortunate, isolating circumstances and find solace in each other.
The graphics sprinkled throughout are entertaining, although one in particular (a sticky note from a nurse) has a glaring error. The story has a big plot twist that comes of out of the blue and with few clues. It seemed like a twist for the sake of having one or a device to easily wrap things up. There are a few other hard-to-believe scenarios in the book, and a light resolution that seems like something out of a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. Even so, with a little suspension of disbelief, Everything, Everything is an engaging ride.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether teens should make some of their own health and medical decisions. At what age should kids get a say in their health care? When should a parent's decision override a kid's?
Many books and movies center on taking huge risks for love. Does this resonate with you? Do you think the potential big reward is worth putting your heart on the line? Why do you think this is such a popular theme in books and movies?
In Everything, Everything, Madeline reads The Little Prince every year or two, saying the meaning changes every time she reads it. Which books, movies, or songs have meant more to you as you've grown and matured?
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