To live your life–no matter what the risk–is the aspiration I took away from this thought provoking debut novel, Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. Yoon has established a character who is believable and lovable in Madeline, a young girl who lives in a bubble because she has SCID, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. She lives under the strict eye of her single mother (she lost both her husband and young son to a truck driver when Maddy was only four months old) and a nurse/caregiver, Carla. Madeline has to remain in her air-controlled, germ free, lonely house. She has never left her house and has given up the notion of having friends, going to school and leading a “normal” life. When she was eight-years-old she watched as neighbors moved in and she knew she could not play with them. She had come to terms with her life. Until… a boy moves in next door. All bets are off as she plunges head over heels in love with the boy of her dreams. Thanks to the internet they are able to IM each other and form a symbiotic relationship.
I liked the young man from next door, Olly. He has his own struggles with an alcoholic dad and a mother who won’t abandon ship. Everything, Everything has two different dramas coexisting in a believable, but cruel environment where each teenager longs for more than they are currently given. Olly continues to befriend Maddy even when she pushes him away. Maddy wants this relationship with the boy more than anything and when she gets it, she pushes it away. Too often we all do that for fear of the unknown. Her emotions are spot on throughout the book. Call it a cliché, but when it seems too good to be true… and this is exactly why she pushes him and normalcy away. We all live in our own form of a bubble, whether it be figurative, or in Maddy’s case, literal. What we choose to do with the time we are given is everything (everything) that matters.
Without being a spoiler, the ending also caught me off guard. I was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t a Christmas package ending. My book club always laughs at me because I don’t like a pretty little bow ending and this book–although I anticipated the bow–did not come to a complete knot. Nice turn by Yoon.
There are unexpected illustrations throughout the book. Upon finishing the book, I learned Yoon’s husband is an illustrator and this is a team debut novel. Nice touch.
In the classroom:
Madeline has to be homeschooled due to her illness. Homeschool and virtual schools are becoming more main stream. Although their curriculum is different than the typical classroom environment, many home school families rely on standardized curriculum developed by those in the education field. One aspect of Madeline’s education is the ability to do more projects than worksheets. Projects allow hands on learning to take place. This can be done in the classroom as well as the home school environment–given the creativity of the teacher. Maddy has an architecture class in which she has to develop buildings, scenes and explain them to her teacher. Pick a lesson in your classroom where you can have your students design something. Using CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.2.A: Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Delacorte Press | 9780553496642 | September 1, 2015)