I guess you could say I’ve taken a bit of a break from young adult novels in the past few weeks, (well, in terms of usual ratio,) but I saw the movie trailer for Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything, and thought to myself “why the heck haven’t I read this yet?” Too impatient to wait on the library’s hold list, I picked up a copy at Sam’s Club, and dove right in. Maybe I’m off my game, but I was thrown by the plot twist. And I LOVE that. I genuinely love when I’m surprised by the words on a page, and am so overwhelmed absorbing the information I didn’t expect to see, I have to pause. Everything Everything tells the story of teenager Madeline who has lived her whole life in the same house, breathing filtered air, with only in-person contact with her mom and her nurse (who takes her stats and vitals all day,) and a time or two a visit from a teacher – because she is allergic to everything. Can you imagine? Though, maybe it’s like some things in life – when you haven’t experienced them yet, you don’t know to miss them. You can’t miss the smell of the ocean, if the salty air has never wafted below your nose, and you can’t miss the taste of a steaming hot slice of pizza burning the roof of your mouth, if those ingredients have never touched your tongue. You probably won’t daydream all day about holding hands with a boy, if you haven’t interacted with one in real life. Maddy lives life vicariously through the pages of the books she devours, and is entertained by movie nights, and made-up board games with her mom. Life as Maddy knows it, changes when cute, mysterious, Olly and his family move in next door. How convenient their bedroom windows face one another. What starts with hand gestures, and condensation notes on window panes, leads to e-mails and the ole trusty instant messenger, and then opens to a whole other world of experiences beyond what Maddy could have imagined on her dreamiest days. Armed with a credit card, and a mischievous streak of braveness not to let her life pass her by, Maddy makes some huge decisions – taking her life and all of it’s possibilities into her own hands. Everything, Everything is a story of love and friendship, trust and betrayal, adventure and risk, and listening to your gut. I know I’m late to the game, but this was a fantastic read, and I found it refreshing. If you haven’t yet, check out this great novel. (I have to admit, I’m excited to see what they’ve done with the movie adaptation!)
I was curious of other reader’s feedback, so I looked at some reviews on Amazon. One person shared: “Look, I’m stoked people are even still writing books, let alone reading them AND sometimes buying the actual book. However, this was just boring.”
Unfortunately, I had to agree.
The Girls focuses on fourteen year old Evie, in the summer of the late 60’s. Bored with her only friend Connie, frustrated with her mom and her string of new boyfriends, desperate and eager for attention she finds herself falling in with a cult. This story line had strong potential, but in my opinion fell flat. The descriptions of the characters, though flowery in their prose, brought us no closer to understanding any of them. The most we got were Evie’s obsessive sexual fantasies about (basically the ring leader of the woman in the group – though they claimed to live belonging to no one with an equal flow of love in all directions) Suzanne. The story is told in flashbacks of present day Evie – older, timid, living a quiet life alone. Basically the whole book just felt like a shell of a story. We don’t really learn much about Evie’s life after that summer, (she wasn’t connected to the crimes committed), except that she made a few friends at boarding school that year, and later in life she had a few different roommates. Even during the summer with the cult and it’s leader, Russell (baring uncanny descriptive similarities to Manson) the flashbacks are lacking as well. Listen, I wasn’t looking for some gruesome telling of the murders, or sexual assault but I just felt confused the whole time. The story didn’t really seem to have much to do with the bizarre practices themselves. Evie seemed to mock them, and question them regularly (mostly internally,) but it was just a means for her to be able to follow Suzanne around and be close to her. Sure – if this wasn’t fictional, it’d be great that some young teenage girl didn’t get completely sucked in. But how much reality is there to the idea that she just rode her bike to hang out with these people on a ranch, occasionally spending the night, but sometimes returning home in time for dinner? It felt non-committal.
Hopefully the other titles on my “to-read” list for 2017 are less disappointing. I know that mine is not necessarily a popular opinion regarding this book. Some people sing the praises of Emma Cline for her “beautiful style.” I wouldn’t personally recommend this book, but I still think it’s good to gather your own opinions, of what is being buzzed about.
(Image from Amazon.)