Friday, September 4, 2015


(review based on an advance reading copy)

Eighteen-year-old Madeline has a rare autoimmune disease. As she puts it, “Basically, I’m allergic to the world.” So she stays in her house with only her mother and her nurse (and her books) for company.  She’s an admirably positive girl, though, who finds plenty to love even within her small world. Until it starts feeling too small. Mostly because there isn’t enough room for the boy next door.

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING is one of those rare treasures of a story that hooked me from the first page, held me riveted for the entire novel, and left an emotional echo in my mind ensuring I never forget this one.

I liked Madeline from the start. She exemplifies a quiet kind of strength, the strength of spirit. She lives such a simple, restricted life and yet she rejoices over everything she can from re-reading a favorite book to movie night with her mom. Both her mother and her nurse talk about their fear that someone with Madeline’s limiting illness might one day succumb to depression. Instead Madeline approaches the world with her frank wit, acknowledging her misfortunes without giving in to tempting self-pity and instead she moves straight on to constantly recognizing the ways she’s blessed.  

This is a very quick read. It looks like a short book: slim, 310 pages. It’s even shorter than it looks, though, due to incredibly short chapters. The long ones are a few pages with the shortest being a few sentences.

The book features unexpected twists here and there, including a big, well-handled one that caught me entirely unawares. Occasionally, some plot developments feel slightly contrived, but it keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace. I did find myself frustrated, though, with mentions of past pain that never earn a full explanation. The mother and nurse reference a summer Madeleine did almost fall prey to despair as well as concern when new neighbors arrive coupled with comments like, “It won’t be like last time.” While I can make guesses based on the information provided, I wish we learned exactly what they’re talking about at some point.

The ending also didn’t entirely satisfy me. Don’t misunderstand me. It is a good ending and I liked it. I’m saying it didn’t entirely satisfy me, not that it didn’t satisfy me at all. My complaint is that the end hints at resolution more than actually letting the reader witness resolution.

I hope to see this one on the bestseller lists soon. The book certainly deserves every bit of praise it receives.

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