REVIEW: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Published September 1st 2015 by Delacorte
Read on December 27, 2016
Alright. When I originally read the book, I wasn't so enthusiastic. I'll leave my original review below, that way, if I can't convince you not to read it in this part about the issues (even though I should), maybe the original one with pros and cons will do the trick.
To be completely honest, this book hurt me. The more I think about it, the more it hurts, and every time I see people praising it I feel it again. So I wanted to speak up.
I had a lot of issues with the portrayal of disability here. Please keep in mind that this is a difficult topic to talk about for me because I never felt like I could claim the label 'disabled', but I'm definitely not able-bodied and had to adjust my life because of it. (so maybe I should claim the word, but those are thoughts for another time)
I do not have SCID, like Maddy, but disabilities hardly get featured in mainstream YA, so I was enthusiastic and expected representation.
But this book was not that.
I'm going to have a hard time formulating my thoughts beyond "this was not okay and it hurt" but I will try in the hopes of more people understanding the issue. Sorry for long and incoherent ramblings.
(Here's the synopsis I used in my original review, in case you don't know what the story is about:
We follow Maddie, who has a rare disease that makes her allergic to the outside world. The only persons she really knows are her mother and her nurse. That is, until a new family moves into the house next to them. Enter Olly, the cute boy who, for the first time, makes Maddie want more than she can have. Right?)
To start of, because it really, really needs to get out:
I AM NOT YOUR FUCKING PLOT DEVICE!
(I meaning we, people with disabilities and/or mental illnesses)
Without spoiling the book I can say that I liked the recognition for the human need for more than what we have. What I didn't like, however, is that the book gave the idea that Maddy could never be happy unless she could achieve that "more" and that the only thing in the way of being able to achieve and pursue that, was her disability. That's not how it works. Yes, disabled people can do less than able-bodied people, usually. But we can still be happy. Yes, we sometimes want things we can't have, and sometimes that's due to our disabilities, but sometimes it has nothing to do with that. And we are not the only people sometimes longing for what we can't have. It's a universal thing, regardless of disabilities.
The only thing standing in the way for Maddy and Olly to fall in love and live happily ever after is the fact that Maddy is sick. I'll leave you with the words of Aimal to explain why:
"But in this story, Maddy’s disability becomes the single obstacle standing in between an otherwise perfect love story. I got the impression that Yoon was saying, “Oh, imagine how perfect they would be, how happy and content if only she wasn’t sick.” I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. That’s bullshit. Framing a disability in a way that the main character cannot live or love with it is so, so harmful to the millions of people all over the world who are happy, who make their lives and relationships work. It made me cringe and fume- I cannot begin to imagine how young people who had picked this book up looking to see their lives reflected on the pages felt." (emphasis mine)
I hate the tagline “the greatest risk is not taking one” because for people who actually have SCID or other severe allergies, or who are "bubble persons" the greatest risk can be ACTUALLY TAKING ONE. Because, you know, they could die from it. And the idea that you haven't lived until you "LIVE", that otherwise you're just existing, is really not okay. Spoiler alert, we can "live" and still take our limits into account. You also "live" if you don't do crazy things that may threaten your health or mean you'll have to recover for a long time. Our lives are valid and real, and so are our stories.
And then, of course, the plot twist happens, and everything gets worse. It was problematic before, but now it's really all over the place. Since talking about it would mean spoiling it (even though I don't really care about spoiling books that are problematic) and I'm really tired due to all this, I'm not going to elaborate on that here.
HOWEVER, it is a really important aspect of the problematicness in this book. I'm sorry I can't explain it here, but please, please read other reviews about it. Here's one from Disability in Kidlit, who always do a great job. Aimal also wrote a great review which I already used a part from, but please read it completely. That also goes for Cait's review, who is in a similar "bubble girl" situation.
Please, please consider our hurt about this. I know you've probably heard many good things about this book, and abelism is hard to spot if you don't get confronted with it yourself. But now you know. This book is problematic and it hurts us. Maybe don't support it?
And I'll say it again: we are NOT your plot devices or here for shock value. We're real, we exist, and we deserve better than this.
(If you want to read more or want to know what (not) to do from a writing perspective, read this post by Ana Mardoll - highly recommended)
Original review (December 2016)
Original rating: 2 stars, and if not for the cute romance parts it would have been one star.
This is a difficult book to review. It was good enough at first, then I got irritated and then it went bad.
It's worth noting that I already knew the big plot twist going in, which might have changed my experience because I was just waiting for the sword to drop.
We follow Maddie, who has a rare disease that makes her allergic to the outside world. The only persons she really knows are her mother and her nurse. That is, until a new family moves into the house next to them. Enter Olly, the cute boy who, for the first time, makes Maddie want more than she can have. Right?
It's hard to say what I liked or disliked without spoiling the story, so this will probably seem incoherent, but here's my try.
I liked how Olly had his own story and was complex as well.
There was instalove. Olly is practically the first boy she ever sees, and she falls for him the moment she locks eyes with him. After that, I did like the romance better, and it got really cute.
Because the story is so short, it sometimes felt rushed.
I liked the recognition for the human need for more.
The supporting characters fell flat. Even more, it had the typical YA thing in which, after the boy enters, family is not important anymore.
The mum was slightly more complex than I had anticipated, which I liked.
Whilst I understand Maddie and what she chooses to do, I do still think it's kind of irresponsible.
The charts and doodles and narration were nice. It was fun to read a book that was more than just text.
Since it was so short, you can read it quickly.
The cover is gorgeous.
The plot twist was bad. It made the story go from unique to flat, and it was hurtful. And it was also highly unbelievable (not only the twist and when it came, but if you look at before the twist and disregard it is going to happen there are a lot of strange things too).
Diversity in MC's, yay.
If it wasn't for the romance, my rating would be less generous. If it was just meant to be another love story, maybe it should just act like one. Then it would not be surprising it wasn't anything special, and if it didn't need to be unique, it could just be cute.
Here's what I think. If you don't know what will happen, you will probably like this book a whole lot more. Until the twist at least, and maybe even then, if I see how many people loved this.
And if you choose to read it, maybe buy it in a paper version (as opposed to an ebook), because, as I said, the cover is beautiful, so at least you'll have that. I also think the doodles and charts etc will be nicer like that.