Recently, whilst on a month long break from writing blog posts (sorry about that) I’ve been on the hunt to find more books and authors that are not anything related to my University work. Thankfully, my first year, along with stress and deadlines and more stress, is now over. So, I decided to head to my local Waterstones and treat myself. When I came across ‘Everything Everything’, I immediately recognised it as a book that an upcoming film is based on. This caught my attention; I’m very interested in book to movie adaptations. Five minutes later, I had bought the book and was on my way home to start reading.
~may contain spoilers~
The concept is intriguing. A seventeen year old girl is afflicted with a disease so rare and severe that she is forced to stay trapped in her home and have little to none human contact. Yet, Maddy is curious about the world, and is filled with the desire for adventure. Because of this, you can feel the struggle and desperation in her words.
An interesting fact to note is that Maddy is half-black, half-Japanese. This alone makes the novel stand out from other young adult romance fiction that I have read where the vast majority of the protagonists (and the protagonist’s love interests) are white. Nicola Yoon, who grew up in Jamaica herself, is giving some representation to those teens that never get to read about people of their cultural heritage, which of course is also of essential importance.
The love story in this book is best described as the perfect mix of sweet and intense, witty and serious. In its early stages, the humorous side of Maddy and Olly’s relationship is shown mainly through email format. While these messages display some of the couple’s more endearing conversations, when the pair are really getting to know each other, it also highlights how impossibly tragic the situation really is. A boy and a girl fall in love, but are unable to meet each other face to face. What I like about Maddy is her refusal to live life the way it has been planned out for her, however reckless. When she makes the decision to go outside, I find myself cheering her on far more than worrying about her. Her excitement is contagious. The way it is written when she first experiences the outside world really makes you aware of how lucky you are to be healthy, and slightly guilty for taking it for advantage.
The sex scene in the book is cleverly written in a way that is intense, but also clumsy and awkward. After all, these are two inexperienced teenagers. While reading this, my mind couldn’t help noticing all the similarities to Jenny Downham’s book ‘Before I Die’. The sensual imagery coupled with celestial, the splitting up into chapters that are one or two sentences long. A line that particularly confirms this for me is “We gather each other up. We are lips and arms and legs and bodies entangled”, which can be easily compared to “It’s utterly beautiful not to know my own edges” (Taken from Downham’s book). They both confirm the idea that together, they are one.
The big plot twist at the end, I have to say, did not shock me as much as I had hoped. Despite this, however predictable, it was certainly heartbreaking. A theme I found throughout the whole book to be both simultaneously the most heart-warming and heart-breaking was the relationship between Maddy and her mother. Even upon the reveal at the end of the book, I couldn’t help but hope for their relationship to repair.
‘Everything Everything’ is an easy and addictive read that really draws you in from the first sentence alone. Trust me, I will be first in line when the film is released in cinemas.
The Sun Is Also A Star
So, officially a newly- formed fan of Nicola Yoon’s work, I couldn’t help but pick up another novel of hers, ‘The Sun Is Also A Star’. Seconds after I read the last page of the book, I went straight to Goodreads to hear other people’s opinions on the book. I knew during reading it that this book is probably a bit of a marmite situation; you either love it or hate it for its clichés. No, it isn’t very realistic. No, it isn’t a ‘normal’ relationship. But in my opinion, the narrative wouldn’t work if written in any other way.
The plot goes as follows: Natasha and Daniel meet on a street in New York City. Daniel, immediately intrigued by Natasha, decides that they will participate in an experiment in which he attempts to get Natasha to fall in love with him. Natasha is stubborn; a girl of science who does not believe in lasting love, while Daniel is a poet who believes romance and love is at the very core of all in the world. While the plot itself might scream cheesiness to you already, there are strong themes throughout the novel which make it a more complex, sincere read.
Although unfalteringly positive, enthusiastic and earnest on the surface, throughout the novel Daniel’s mind is also being pulled in two completely opposite directions. The reason he is in New York City is for an interview for Yale University, which is, despite being the ’Second-Best School, (second to Harvard) the only acceptable path for Daniel’s life to go down, so that he fulfils his parents’ wishes for him to be a doctor. While more than capable of doing this, Daniel has other dreams that involve being a poet and definitely do not involve going to college. But being from a strict Korean background, he has limited options. This is what I love about Yoon’s work, she brings to light real issues that real teens endure every day, and does not attempt to sugar-coat or eradicate them. This is definitely seen with Natasha’s story. She is an illegal immigrant from Jamaica, who has one day to find a way to stay in America before she is deported. These hard-hitting, realistic subjects make for a very emotional read.
The format of this book is very important as it gives perspectives to people who you, as the reader, wouldn’t pay any attention to otherwise. For example, Irene the guard. As we are introduced to her from Natasha’s point of view, she seems irrelevant to the story. And while she is no big part of it, once the narrative is switched to her perspective, it makes you realise how often you misjudge people despite not knowing them.
I found so many parallels between ‘The Sun Is Also A Star’ and ‘Everything Everything’, one of which being the kiss scene. Yoon’s style is very much romanticised, as she is a self proclaimed romantic, and the language is excessively idealistic and fantasy-like. However, in ‘The Sun Is Also A Star’, the kiss scene is voiced by Natasha, who is more of a sceptical and hesitant girl than Maddy, therefore the language used is less fireworks whooshing and butterflies and more trying to make sense of what is happening. Despite this, the girls both ask the same question:
“All our kisses aren’t going to be like that, are they?” I ask him.
“You know. Insane”.
“I love how direct you are,” he says.
(The Sun Is Also A Star)
“Is it always like that?” I ask, breathless.
“No,” he says. “It’s never like that.” I hear the wonder in his voice.
Something that ‘The Sun Is Also A Star’ makes very clear is that justice is not always served. Natasha had a real opportunity to escape being deported, but her attorney’s selfish actions took the chance away from her.
Jeremy Fitzgerald didn’t tell Daniel the truth. The reason he wasn’t able to stop Natasha’s deportation is that he missed the court appointment with the judge who could’ve reversed the Voluntary Removal. He missed it because he’s in love with Hannah Winter, and instead of going to see the judge, he spent the afternoon at a hotel with her.
This is sending a message that a fair life is something that few of us get to have.
‘The Sun Is Also A Star’ is a harder novel to read than ‘Everything Everything’ in terms of hard-hitting content, but this sprinkled with love and adventure and youth is what makes both books an enjoyable read.
THANK YOU FOR READING!