BRTHDAE UISH "MOVIE NIGHT OR Honor Pictionary or Book Club?" my mom asks while inflating a blood pressure cuff around my arm. She doesn't mention her favorite of all our post-dinner activities--Phonetic Scrabble. I look up to see that her eyes are already laughing at me. "Phonetic," I say. She stops inflating the cuff. Ordinarily Carla, my full-time nurse, would be taking my blood pressure and filling out my daily health log, but my mom's given her the day off. It's my birthday and we always spend the day together, just the two of us. She puts on her stethoscope so that she can listen to my heartbeat. Her smile fades and is replaced by her more serious doctor's face. This is the face her patients most often see-- slightly distant, professional, and concerned. I wonder if they find it comforting. Impulsively I give her a quick kiss on the forehead to remind her that it's just me, her favorite patient, her daughter. She opens her eyes, smiles, and caresses my cheek. I guess if you're going to be born with an illness that requires constant care, then it's good to have your mom as your doctor. A few seconds later she gives me her best I'm-the-doctor- and-I'm-afraid-I-have-some-bad-news-for-you face. "It's your big day. Why don't we play something you have an actual chance of winning? Honor Pictionary?" Since regular Pictionary can't really be played with two people, we invented Honor Pictionary. One person draws and the other person is on her honor to make her best guess. If you guess correctly, the other person scores. I narrow my eyes at her. "We're playing Phonetic, and I'm winning this time," I say confidently, though I have no chance of winning. In all our years of playing Phonetic Scrabble, or Fonetik Skrabbl, I've never beaten her at it. The last time we played I came close. But then she devastated me on the final word, playing JEENZ on a triple word score. "OK." She shakes her head with mock pity. "Anything you want." She closes her laughing eyes to listen to the stethoscope. We spend the rest of the morning baking my traditional birthday cake of vanilla sponge with vanilla cream frosting. After it's cooled, I apply an unreasonably thin layer of frosting, just enough to cover the cake. We are, both of us, cake people, not frosting people. For decoration, I draw eighteen frosted daisies with white petals and a white center across the top. On the sides I fashion draped white curtains. "Perfect." My mom peers over my shoulders as I finish up. "Just like you." I turn to face her. She's smiling a wide, proud smile at me, but her eyes are bright with tears. "You. Are. Tragic," I say, and squirt a dollop of frosting on her nose, which only makes her laugh and cry some more. Really, she's not usually this emotional, but something about my birthday always makes her both weepy and joyful at the same time. And if she's weepy and joyful, then I'm weepy and joyful, too. "I know," she says, throwing her hands helplessly up in the air. "I'm totally pathetic." She pulls me into a hug and squeezes. Frosting gets into my hair. My birthday is the one day of the year that we're both most acutely aware of my illness. It's the acknowledging of the passage of time that does it. Another whole year of being sick, no hope for a cure on the horizon. Another year of missing all the normal teenagery things--learner's permit, first kiss, prom, first heartbreak, first fender bender. Another year of my mom doing nothing but working and taking care of me. Every other day these omissions are easy--easier, at least--to ignore. This year is a little harder than the previous. Maybe it's because I'm eighteen now. Technically, I'm an adult. I should be leaving home, going off to college. My mom should be dreading empty-nest syndrome. But because of SCID, I'm not going anywhere. Later, after dinner, she gives me a beautiful set of watercolor pencils that had been on my wish list for months. We go into the living room and sit cross-legged in front of the coffee table. This is also part of our birthday ritual: She lights a single candle in the center of the cake. I close my eyes and make a wish. I blow the candle out. "What did you wish for?" she asks as soon as I open my eyes. Really there's only one thing to wish for--a magical cure that will allow me to run free outside like a wild animal. But I never make that wish because it's impossible. It's like wishing that mermaids and dragons and unicorns were real. Instead I wish for something more likely than a cure. Something less likely to make us both sad. "World peace," I say. Three slices of cake later, we begin a game of Fonetik. I do not win. I don't even come close. She uses all seven letters and puts down POKALIP next to an S. POKALIPS . "What's that?" I ask. "Apocalypse," she says, eyes dancing. "No, Mom. No way. I can't give that to you." "Yes," is all she says. "Mom, you need an extra A . No way." "Pokalips," she says for effect, gesturing at the letters. "It totally works." I shake my head. "P O K A L I P S," she insists, slowly dragging out the word. "Oh my God, you're relentless," I say, throwing my hands up. "OK, OK, I'll allow it." "Yesssss." She pumps her fist and laughs at me and marks down her now-insurmountable score. "You've never really understood this game," she says. "It's a game of persuasion." I slice myself another piece of cake. "That was not persuasion," I say. "That was cheating." "Same same," she says, and we both laugh. "You can beat me at Honor Pictionary tomorrow," she says. After I lose, we go to the couch and watch our favorite movie, Young Frankenstein . Watching it is also part of our birthday ritual. I put my head in her lap, and she strokes my hair, and we laugh at the same jokes in the same way that we've been laughing at them for years. All in all, not a bad way to spend your eighteenth birthday. Excerpted from Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
New York Times Review
|EVEN IF YOU knew love could kill you, what would you risk to experience it - just once? Just for a little while? The world outside the home of 18-year-old Madeline Whittier, the heroine of Nicola Yoon's gorgeous and lyrical debut novel, is filled with threats: viruses, allergens, bacteria, deadly airborne particles. These are all things that Madeline's compromised immune system can't handle. She has SCID, or severe combined immunodeficiency, known as "bubble baby disease." So Madeline is a princess trapped in a castle - except her castle is a spotless, decontaminated house in Los Angeles with white walls, where she lives with her mother, a physician. She hasn't left the house for 17 years. In order for people to visit (and they don't; besides her nurse, Carla, Madeline's only friends are virtual), they would have to endure a thorough physical and spend an hour in a decontamination airlock. For a teenager who has never felt sunshine on her face or her bare feet on the grass - and for whom the future holds none of that - Madeline is remarkably grounded. She inhales novels instead of fresh air, has online tutors ("If I were going to be something when I grew up, an architect is what I'd be"), and spends evenings playing games with her mother. "I am not lonely," she tells her mom. "I am alone. Those are different things." The possibilities of love and loss aren't an option for her. She's never weighed the heart-opening adrenaline rush of connection and newfound intimacy against the potential agony of heartbreak and rejection. Until the rumble and steady beep of a moving truck are heard next door, and suddenly, there's a boy to marvel over: a boy who wears all black, practices park-our as if he's weightless and has a window that looks directly onto Madeline's. From what Madeline can surmise through her window, Oliver - Olly - spends his days hanging out on his roof and shielding his mother and younger sister from his alcoholic, abusive father. After nights of impressively detailed analog window communication - hand gestures, nods, smiles, an elaborate skit - email addresses are exchanged, and the 21st-century courtship begins. There are hours of instant messaging, inboxes full of emails, and then, finally, a secret rendezvous, post-Olly's checkup, set up by Carla. For someone who has never had a relationship, much less an IRL friendship with someone her own age, Madeline plays it extremely cool. Somehow she has the self-discipline to wait days before checking her email after seeing him, a feat a mature adult would not be able to accomplish - even though she's crazy with longing: "Wanting just leads to more wanting," she says. "There's no end to desire." Don't worry, Carla tells Madeline. Love can't kill you. "Just because you can't experience everything doesn't mean you shouldn't experience anything," Carla says. "Besides, doomed love is a part of life." And Madeline and Olly are doomed. "What would happen if you went outside?" Olly asks. Her head would explode, Madeline says. Or her lungs. Or her heart. But when she sees Oily's father in a violent, drunken rage, she can't help it: She runs out the front door, determined to protect Olly - and exposes their relationship to her mother. Carla is promptly fired. And within days, Madeline has taken the biggest risk of her life, even bigger than letting herself fall in love with Olly. There's some thematic overlap with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series (intimacy equals death) and, of course, with John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" (love in the context of terminal teenage illness). But with offbeat, pragmatic and sweetly romantic characters and an unconventional narrative style - the text is punctuated with medical charts, kissing primers, and other illustrations from Yoon's husband, David Yoon - "Everything, Everything" tells us something we will always need to hear, no matter our age: that it's not the risks of love or heartbreak that might end us. It's the fear of the pain we might experience along the way that keeps us trapped in our cocoons - or our white, decontaminated houses. (And in the one major plot twist that doesn't quite work, Madeline's mother is trapped by fear as well: Her love for her daughter turns out to be darker than we expect.) Madeline might think she has only a few days with Olly before her body gives out - and whether that's true is left to the reader - but she'll take it. WHITNEY JOINER is a senior editor at Marie Claire magazine and a co-founder of The Recollectors, a community for people who have lost parents to AIDS.|
Publishers Weekly Review
|Madeline "Maddy" Whittier, an 18-year-old, has severe combined immunodeficiency, a rare condition that renders her allergic to nearly everything and requires her to live inside a carefully sealed environment. That doesn't stop her from falling in love with Olly, the boy next door. Since much of the novel is told from Maddy's point of view, reader Turpin's versatility is on full display here, not only with Maddy and Olly but also with Maddy's anxious, protective mother and Carla, her loving, funny nurse. Actor Daymond occasionally chimes in to read Olly's messages to Maddy. Voice-over veterans Hillary Huber and Ann Marie Lee also appear in brief, unheralded cameos, giving voice to the parts of the story that feature other narrative devices such as journal entries, medical reports, and other kinds of text. At times, these abrupt transitions give the audiobook a disjointed feel, but Turpin's performance is stellar. Ages 12-up. A Delacorte hardcover. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.|
School Library Journal Review
|Gr 7 Up-Yoon's superb debut begins and ends with books. Stories are how 18-year-old Madeline has survived with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency-"you know it as `bubble baby disease'"-in her sanitized world that includes only her doctor mother and a nurse. She's been content enough with taking classes via Skype, having movie nights with Mom, and posting Tumblr book reviews, until Olly and his troubled family move in next door. What begins with glimpses through windows progresses to computer screens, until love proves unavoidable and the truth inevitable. Narrator Bahni Turpin showcases her signature diverse range, effortlessly voicing 18-year-old mixed-race Japanese African American Madeline, her middle-aged mother, and her nurse, a Mexican immigrant. Although Robbie Daymond faultlessly narrates Olly's online exchanges, the effect is noticeably jarring when Turpin reclaims the narration-including as Olly. Brief drop-ins by veterans Hillary Huber and Anne Marie Lee reading minor characters' life-altering messages are thoughtful enhancements. VERDICT Swooning first-love-with-a-seriously-ill-partner novels are undoubtedly multiplying; this is the best multicultural choice of them all. ["Everything, Everything is wonderful, wonderful": SLJ 8/15 starred review of the Delacorte book.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.|