If you love Eleanor and Park, Hazel and Augustus, and Mia and Adam, you’ll love the story of Maddy, a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world, and Olly, the boy who moves in next door . . . and becomes the greatest risk she’s ever taken. This innovative and heartfelt debut novel unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, illustrations, and more.
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.*
Where to begin with this book?! The title is fitting because this book is everything. It encompasses so many different emotions and concepts in such unique ways. First of all, it gave me a very specific kick in the butt that I find so rare in books that I’ve read (the only other one I really recall having this feeling about is The Fault in Our Stars), and that is the push to live life rather than merely exist in the world. I think it’s very easy to fall into an everyday routine and it’s extremely difficult to break out of it. My favorite play in high school was Death of a Salesman because I identified with Willy Loman and I didn’t want to end up the way he did, so I always embrace books that remind me to never settle, to keep exploring, to keep throwing myself into this crazy thing called life. Nicola Yoon did that and in such a beautiful way.
The prose is absolutely breathtaking. I read this book in two days, but I probably could have read it in one sitting if I didn’t keep pausing to reread passages in a vain attempt to commit them to memory. The author hit on so many things that I can identify with and she did so in a way that made it feel at times like I was looking at a piece of art rather than reading a book. This brings me to my next point, which is that the illustrations are such a fantastic element of this story. It’s always a lovely surprise to turn the page and be greeted by an ad for cliff diving or a webpage. So, shoutout to Nicola’s husband David for those!
What was more lovely than being greeted by these images, though, was being greeted by the IMs between Maddy and Olly. Oh my goodness, my heart could not handle the cuteness overload! I actually cried a little at parts that probably did not warrant crying because they were so sweet. The ending actually had me basically sobbing tears of joy (and maybe a little jealousy as well, ha! One gripe I have not only with this book, but with all YA books I’ve read and even written–these boys don’t exist! I mean, I was a teenage girl once and there were no boys making sweet, romantic, caring gestures like these. Then again, maybe I was too busy reading about them to have them happen to me, LOL!).
Though Maddy’s disease is what causes her to be so closed off from the world and what causes her mother to keep such a careful, protective watch over her, I feel like this is something that healthy people can relate to as well. At least I can. My parents were always very protective, and still are, which is nice considering the alternatives but it can be extremely frustrating to experience this growing up. It makes it a lot harder in adulthood to go out and make the decision to do things, to live a full and happy life. I’m one of those people who would rather die young having actually experienced everything fully as opposed to living to 100 without any real feeling of fulfillment or joy, but thanks to being sheltered a lot as a kid there are mental obstacles that make it tough to do so (experience everything fully, that is, not die young–let’s knock on wood that doesn’t happen!).
The revelation at the end of this book made me so angry and frustrated, and I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it, but it’s a beautiful piece of literature that I think everyone can take at least one big thing away from, if not more. I’m going to really miss these characters and would love to read a little snippet of their lives after the end of this novel.
*Cover image and synopsis are from Amazon.com.