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Beautiful Books: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

From the back cover: Live life in a bubble? Or risk everything for love? Maddy is allergic to the world. She hasn’t left her house in seventeen years. Olly is the boy next door. He’s determined to find a way to reach her. Everything, Everything is about the crazy risks we take for love.

I like to read while I’m on the treadmill and I started Everything, Everything while I was on the treadmill. But two pages in, I almost stopped walking so I could just sit on the belt and read.

What hooked me? The “reward if found” lists Maddy comes up with for her books. Who wouldn’t want a picnic in “a pollen-filled field of poppies, lilies, and endless man-in-the-moon marigolds under a clear blue summer sky?” I’ll take an antihistamine and meet you there, Maddy, with strawberries and my super-awesome whipped cream.

What kept me reading? There was a selection of health logs that made me suck my breath in and go oh!—because the idea that everything in the world could kill you is the cruelest joke that nature could play. I wondered if maybe the real issue was Maddy’s mom. Maybe the mom had Munchausen’s or something. But she, too, is trapped by Maddy’s illness. And maybe it’s worse for her, because she knows what the world has to offer. The relationship between Maddy and her mother echoes the title beautifully because they are everything to each other. Yes, they’re close by necessity, but it’s tender and sweet and funny and then Olly moves in next door.

I connected immediately with Maddy’s sense of humor and the way she shares it through her spoiler reviews of books, then later her conversations with Olly. I kept reading because of the way Maddy worries about her mom, her nurse Carla, and Olly—she seems to want to save them all from heartache, to take it all on herself. Maybe she feels like that’s the only way she can really make an impact in the world and be connected. I kept reading because I loved the simplicity of Maddy’s dreams – picnics, tea, swimming in the sea, or a browse through a used bookstore—and Carla’s role as an ally. And the astronaut was brilliant and poignant and made me cry a little bit each time.

Oh, I really want to talk about this book with you! But I can’t ruin it for you. I can tell you that I love Maddy, and Olly, and Carla—and I’m crushed for Maddy’s mom. I can tell you that Maddy is all heart, and that is her greatest strength.

This was a difficult book to step away from for even a few hours. I started reading in the morning and when I put it down to make lunch and Do Other Stuff, I kept sneak-reading a few pages. I’d meant to read something already in progress on my e-reader at night, but couldn’t abandon Maddy…so I stayed up until nearly three am to finish. Was I tired the next day? Definitely. And it was worth it. It’s just that now I have to add The Little Prince to my reading list. Thanks for the recommendation, Maddy.

Oh, and for the record: how is Maddy not like me? Besides the allergic to everything part? She’s half Japanese-American, half African-American.

But just like me, she’s a dreamer, a reader, and above all a fighter.

For January 25: The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

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