Written by: Nicola Yoon
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 320, Hardback
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Thanks to Delacorte for the ARC!
This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, 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.
Aaawwww, this book was adorable! I read it in one sitting and it did things to my emotions. Even though I had minor issues regarding plot inconsistencies and more major issues regarding the ending, this was the most enjoyable reading experience I had in a long time. The book flows so smoothly–the chapters are really short and interspersed with IM conversations and Maddy’s drawings, book reviews, and dictionary definitions. Even though it followed a fairly usual trajectory, it was full of little touches that made it unique.
The book follows a girl named Madeline, who is, as she puts it, “allergic to to the world”. She can’t leave her house, and only ever interacts with her mother and her nurse. One day, a family moves next door. Their son, Olly, has a window across from hers. They communicate through windows, e-mail, and dead Bundt cakes. (Um. That last one makes sense in context.) You can see where this is going. That’s right…adorable love story! And the romance is indeed adorable.
I wasn’t a fan of the plot twist at the end, for reasons I can’t go into without spoilers. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but I thought it was bad writing and kind of disrespectful.
I think I understand the hype for this book. I wouldn’t necessarily call it an all-time favorite, but with the likable characters, lovely writing, and scenes that made little hearts form in my eyes, I can definitely get the appeal. But I still don’t like the ending.
SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING
Surprise! Maddy isn’t actually sick and it was all a product of her mother’s issues. The fangirl in me was happy that Maddy and Olly could be happy, but at the same time, it was so contrived and overly simple that I was extremely disappointed. In the end, everything works out for the main characters due to some random twist of fate, and that’s not satisfying at all.
And there aren’t that many books out there about teenagers living with chronic illnesses so I was really disappointed that this turned out not to be one. The ending of the book is very unfair to people who are actually sick and aren’t going to get an e-mail one day telling them that there’s actually nothing wrong with them and might also want to be told they can get a happy ending.
Also, certain logistical details didn’t add up. I’m majorly unobservant, so if I notice this, there’s a problem. How did Maddy manage to get a credit card when she never leaves the house and (I assume) shares a bank account with her mother? Why is it so important that everything in Maddy’s room has to be white (besides thematic relevance)? How on earth did Maddy’s mother pull off what she did for so many years?
Maddy was so easy for me to connect to. Her character just flowed from the pages, which doesn’t always happen with contemporary novels, and even when I found her actions frustrating, I could understand where she was coming from. She made this really reckless decision in the middle of the book that could have had terrible consequences, and even though part of me was yelling, “no don’t do the thing!!! that is a majorly bad life choice you’re making right now please stop!!!” another part of me got it, and respected her courage and determination. She was funny and smart and stubborn and brave. I laughed when she laughed and cried when she cried.
Olly was such a cutie–maybe a little too good to be true, but I’m fine with that. I loved his jokes and his e-mails and his limericks and his love for math.
Maddy’s relationship with Olly was the most adorable ever. Even though they connected instantly, I loved that the author took the time for their relationship to build up (and I love that it happened mostly through e-mail and IM, because take that, people who think you can’t get to know someone online!!!) and their interactions never failed to make me smile. And because Maddy had been isolated her whole life, certain interactions between them had so much more power–I was basically holding my breath the first time they touched.
I’m just going to address this because I know a lot of people have brought it up as a criticism: this isn’t a book about a girl taking stupid risks and leaving her whole life behind for a guy. Yes, Olly was the catalyst, the final push, but what Maddy did was something she had wanted to anyway, and she was doing it for herself, not just to be with him.
Also, the writing is just lovely.
Pick up for when you want a cute, romantic book that sometimes tugs at your heartstrings. Just keep in mind in mind what I said about the ending.