The medical name for “bubble boy disease” is SCID- Severe combined immunodeficiency, which became more widely known after a (fictional) character with SCID appeared in a 1992 episode of Seinfeld. Or, if you are even older than that, you might remember John Travolta’s 1976 role in The Boy in the Bubble. I’m not quite sure if either of those pop culture references are in the lexicon of today’s modern youth- the target audience for Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything. Perhaps this book is their first exposure to the rare medical condition.
Everything Everything is the story of a girl named Maddy. She lives with her mother in an average looking house on an average block, but there is nothing normal about Maddy’s life. Maddy is severely allergic to everything, and her house is eqipped with special sensors and air filters to protect her from airborne pathogens and other things that could trigger a fatal reaction. Aside from her mother, Maddy’s only companion is her beloved nurse Carla, who has been caring for Maddy for many years. Maddy is homeschooled, and receives only occasional face-to-face visits with her tutors; most of her schooling takes place via Skype.
Maddy is content with her predictable life, but all that changes with Olly moves in next door. Maddy has not really encountered any teenage boys before, and finds herself fascinated by Olly. She strikes up a friendship with him via email/chatting, but how can you be friends with someone when you’re allergic to everything?
There have been other books in the YA genre that feature medically fragile girls and the boys who love them- The Fault in Our Stars comes to mind. But Everything Everything is wholly original and stands well as its own book. Maddy is immediately drawn to Olly after she sees his father fighting with the rest of the family. Maddy recognizes the situation as abusive, but she is powerless to stop it because she can’t even leave her house without putting her life at risk. She spends a lot of time observing the world around her, and she doesn’t quite know what to do when she realizes that there’s someone who is interested in finding out more about her. Despite his brooding appearance, Olly has a wonderful sense of humor, and he is just as curious about her as she is about him.
I would absolutely recommend Everything Everything. Nicola Yoon has found a perfect combination of humor and poignancy. I loved that Maddy’s narration was interspersed with diagrams and hilarious spoiler-filled one sentence book reviews. This is about so much more than taking opportunities and living life to the fullest. Nicola Yoon is a talented author, and I am looking forward to reading more of her books in the future.