*Serious Face Review*

Madeline Whittier has spent her entire life in a bubble – a fully sealed house with an industrial air filter and circulation system designed so absolutely nothing gets in. Extremely sickly during her first few months of life, she was soon diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), which basically means she is allergic to everything.

When “Everything, Everything” begins, Madeline has just turned eighteen and has yet to leave her house. Tomorrow will bring another day of the same life she’s always know – online classes, nonstop reading and only her mother and nurse Carla for company.

Things begin to change when a new family moves in next door. Madeline knows she shouldn’t look out the window – after all, she’ll never meet them unless they undergo a health check and an hour of decontamination – but she does it anyway, and happens to lock eyes with Olly. Olly, the self-proclaimed cynic who looks “dead sexy in black” and practices parkour on his own house, represents everything Madeline’s life doesn’t have. He’s lived around the country, is constantly in motion and eschews proper punctuation.

After a bumpy introduction, Olly and Madeline began to exchange emails and quickly find each other’s digital company the most pleasant parts of their respective days. It is both believable and predictable when they begin to fall in love. But rest assured, “Everything, Everything” is not merely another cookie cutter terminally ill teenager love story.

One of the most interesting things about Madeline is that at the outset of the book, she has achieved a level of contentment that is practically unfathomable to anyone in today’s hustling, bustling society. It’s not that she is unaware of the outside world, but she has learned not to wish for things she can’t have. The very idea of desire scares her.

Of course, Olly fills her with terrifying levels of wanting – wanting to meet him in person, then touch him, then kiss him. He isn’t as cynical as he makes himself out to be, and is admirably accepting of the limitations Madeline’s condition impose on their growing relationship. He might only wear black, but he’s not the bad boy that would make a mother faint.

The story morphs from a budding teenage romance to take on much deeper themes that affect all the characters. The idea of love and what happens when you lose it transcends the couple in question and touches relationships between friends, lovers and family members. The mother-daughter relationship takes an unexpected front seat in the second half of the book, with a twist that takes “Everything, Everything” off the predictable track of a doomed romance and into the realm of questioning the foundations of Madeline’s entire life.

Sprinkled throughout “Everything, Everything” are little extras that tell the story in more than words. IM messages, Tumblr book reviews and other signs of Madeline’s digital presence clue you in to the fact that though she is sheltered, she is funny, intelligent and self-aware.

This is a fast-paced book that is easy to blitz through. It’s not always a bed of roses; with very believable heartache that will clench up your throat and make you root for Madeline and Olly. “Everything, Everything” is full of humor, love and sweet moments that make you understand the difference between being alive and really living.

Author: Nicola Yoon

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