Ah, another book finished that is controversial and that I feel I have no business reviewing…excellent!
Why do I continue to do this to myself? ARGH!
SPOILER ALERT!!! I feel that it is impossible for me to talk about this book without revealing the ending. You have been warned!
Before I begin properly reviewing Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, I have to let you all in on a little secret… I LIKE spoilers. I know, I know, this is an extremely rare trait, but I have always, from a very young age, been okay with and even eager to learn spoilers about books, movies and television shows. Both my brother and I have this weird habit of reading the last sentence of a novel before starting it. Both my dad and I were unbothered by the fact that we knew most of what was going to happen in Game of Thrones before watching it (including, *shock*, who would die). And, when I started to read reviews of Everything, Everything before picking it up to read myself and learned that there was some controversy surrounding the ending, I clicked on those SPOILER links on Goodreads without hesitation.
So, with that being said, I knew before I even turned to page one of Everything, Everything that the main character, Madeline Whittier, is deceived by her doctor mother throughout the first 18 years of her life into believing that she suffers from SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency), a disease that means she is unable to leave her home. Ever. Basically, to simplify this 300 page novel in a few sentences: 18 year old Maddy has been raised to believe she can never leave her house and that the very air outside is dangerous to her, and this is due to the fact that her doctor mother never recovered from the trauma of losing her husband and son (Maddy’s father and brother) in a tragic car accident and was so afraid to also lose Maddy that she convinced herself that Maddy was ill and could never be let out of the house. Of course, in proper YA novel fashion, a gorgeous and intriguing boy, Olly, moves next door to Maddy when the novel starts, they fall in love, and this causes her to risk going outside, and, even more risky, on a trip to Hawaii, which sets in motion Maddy’s discovery that she is not and never has been sick.
What the ****? Am I right in thinking that this is one of the weirdest plots in existence? Who’s with me on this? Yes, it’s true that I went into the novel knowing that Maddy wasn’t even sick, and so this made it a lot more frustrating and upsetting to read all about her struggles with this disease that I knew she didn’t even have. But rather than ruining my reading of Everything, Everything, I think the fact that I knew what was going to happen in the end and what was really going on all along made my reading experience better. I had this disgust and annoyance in my heart for Maddy’s mother right from the start, and so I was able to view their interactions with this secret knowledge that made me root for Maddy even harder. It also made me despise Dr. Whittier, but more than that, it allowed me to really dissect the aspects of the novel that I might’ve glossed over by the time I reached the shocking conclusion. For example, I think the fact that I knew that Maddy wasn’t sick at all made the whole thing seem even more far-fetched and unrealistic to me. Yes, Maddy’s mother is a doctor, but Maddy also has a nurse, Carla, who attends to her every day and who eventually admits that she often found herself thinking that nothing was wrong with Maddy at all. Okay, so why didn’t she say anything or question anything? Why didn’t she demand to see the test results from Maddy’s initial diagnosis? You mean to tell me that a nurse would accept a position caring for a teenager with such a rare and grave illness and not want to see her entire file beforehand, make note of every single procedure she has ever had done? If Carla had done this, she would have found, just as Maddy does in the end, that every immunologist Maddy saw as a child found ZERO evidence that she suffered from SCID. It just seems mind-boggling to me that Maddy’s mother can get away with such an elaborate lie, even if she is a doctor. Doctors are still accountable to larger boards and hospitals and colleagues, etc. so how did NO ONE think to look into whether or not Maddy’s medical records backed up her mother’s claims? It was just so bizarre to me and I’m glad I knew about the ending from the start because, as I said, it made me more critical of Carla’s acceptance of everything Dr. Whittier said and had her do.
Furthermore, the fact that Maddy ends up not being ill with SCID is very offensive. This is where it gets tricky for me to review this book and where I feel totally unqualified…I don’t suffer from SCID, I don’t know anyone who does, and I don’t know very much about it. But, I have a feeling that those who do suffer from it would not appreciate how Yoon exploits a very severe condition and then does a complete 180 at the end, almost declaring to the reader, “See, she was never sick at all, so she can live happily ever after!” I’m all for happy endings and fairytales, but this was way too much for me and was actually pretty despicable. Do I love it that Jane Eyre ended up “coincidentally” living with her cousins after she left Thornfield Hall? Yes, I do. Do I like the ending that has Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy marry even though we thought all throughout the novel that they hated each other? Of course! BUT, do I appreciate the fact that Yoon treated a serious illness with such nonchalance that she forces her character to endure it and then decides, Never mind, that was a big joke because Maddy has to end up with the boy and that can’t happen if she’s really sick? No. Just…no. That’s simply uncalled for and is a huge cop out. Is Yoon not a talented enough author to treat this illness with respect? Can she not come up with a way to make her character fulfilled and happy without having her end up with the boy? There are people who actually live with SCID and diseases like it and just because they do, does NOT mean their lives don’t have value and that they can’t have love and happiness and excitement in them. Yoon seems to think they can’t, though, and that ****ing bothered me! Again, I repeat that I have no real right to be angry about this because I don’t suffer from SCID or have any close friends or family members who do…HOWEVER, cancer is hugely prominent in my family and I’m trying to imagine how I would feel if I read an entire book about a cancer patient that ended with the author basically saying, “SURPRISE, she isn’t sick at all and will get to live a long and glorious life with her high school sweetheart!” Not pleased. That’s how I would feel.
Having said all this, I really did like Maddy and Olly and I thought the novel was well written, which makes me even madder. The style is very unique with prose blocks interspersed with Maddy’s diary entries, her drawings, her IM conversations with Olly. It almost read like a scrapbook and I genuinely loved that. Maddy and Olly were also super cute in their interactions and their voices were actually distinct and unique and their flirting was adorable. I finished the entire book in less than 24 hours, for godsake, because it was so readable and flowed so well… So, I’m left like, Whyyy? This book had SO MUCH potential and I would’ve loved it, probably even given it 5 stars, if it wasn’t for the totally GARBAGE ending! Why would Yoon do this? She had a great, creative and interesting book on her hands and then she just…threw it all away for no apparent reason. We, as readers, can handle a bit of heartache, we can handle a character that has to face illness and difficulty and doesn’t get this miraculous ending. We can handle the grit, and it felt almost like my intelligence was being insulted when Everything, Everything turned what could’ve been a profound message about the value of life and the nature of happiness into an absolutely ridiculous ending.
What more can I say? This novel was totally absurd and I can’t even think of how to rate it because I wished it ended at like the 250 page mark because then I would’ve loved it.
Damn, I’m just going to give it an exact average rating and be done with it, and go angrily fume in a corner now.
❥❥.5 (out of 5)
Girl with a Green Heart