I have sat in front of my computer for a while now, trying to organize my thoughts on this book. If I were to rate this book on sheer enjoyment alone this book would get all the stars. But, when I analyze the content and look at the characters and their actions, I find that there are a lot of things I did not like.
This book is about Madeline, a half African-American/Japanese girl who has not left her house in 17 years due to the fact that she is allergic to everything, everything. She lives in a bubble, the very air can possibly kill her if she steps outside. So, after a life of living the safe life, Madeline decides that she will risk it all if only for the new boy next door. This is where the problems start.
This book was every cute. Adorable even. It was a sweet, romantic YA contemporary in the vein of all YA contemporaries. Not too original, not too cliché, it was just right. It was also very, very wrong. Basically, this is your warning. Be prepared for a strange, contradicting review.
This novel is beautifully written. I am officially a fan of Nicola Yoon’s writing style. The characters are also generally likable. It also showed the inherent human need to always have more than we do. To always want more than we are able to have.
“Wanting just leads to more wanting. There’s no end to desire.”
As Madeline gets to know Oliver she begins to yearn for the outside world in a way she never had before. She is no longer content with seeing life go by from behind a protective glass. For the first time, she also wants to spend time with people other than her overbearing doctor mother, and her kind nurse, Carla. She wants to know what it’s like to be normal and be happy. And she is willing to risk her life to do it.
Now, I understand the whole risk thing. I understand that living life in a glass box is not the same as just living. If someone told me that in order to be immortal I would have to sit in a locked room I doubt I would do it. So yes, I understand why Madeline did what she did. I understand why she risked her life in order to live. I do not understand why she did it for a boy.
Oliver “Olly”, is the very first guy she befriends. He is the first guy her age who has conversations with her and see her and has actually had interaction. So, it is kind of obvious that she would fall in love with him. I used this example when I read SHatter Me, but it’s as if you have only ever tastes vanilla ice cream. Of course vanilla would be your favorite, you wouldn’t have a choice. That is not to say that once you taste chocolate, or pistachio, or cookies and cream or *insert your favorite ice cream here*, that your preference would not change. I do not believe in true love when that love is, for Madeline at least, the only guy on the planet.
Then there is the fact that this is complete instalove. Olly is the only guy she’s ever officially met, and they had been talking only for a few weeks before they decided that they were in love. Before Madeline that she would risk her life in going outside for him?
No. This is just irrational. I don’t buy it.
In fact, many of Madeline’s actions in the second half of the book are completely irrational. They are childish and very much a danger to her life.
Then there is the disease itself. SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency). Having this basically means that your immune system is crap and that literally anything in world, even the bacteria in the air we breathe, could kill you. Now, I have actually met someone who had this illness. She was confined for years to her home. She had to have a bed and room from her husband. SHe couldn’t touch anyone. She even had to use special soap and detergent and couldn’t wear perfume And if someone else was wearing perfume they couldn’t even go near her without her breaking out in hives or vomiting. This is a serious illness. It is sad and it is extremely life threatening. She only got better and was able to leave her home through gene therapy and the work of God. And even know she must be extremely careful.
Here, SCID is portrayed as nothing more than an obstacle for true love. It is a minor inconcenience in Madeline’s struggle to be a ‘normal’ girl. I don’t know how I feel about that.
Finally, there is the end, which I will not go into due to spoilers, but which very much seemed like a copout. A nice little way to end a fairytale.
Also, since the book was fairly short and went by fairly quick (I read it in one sitting) I did not feel that I got to know the characters very well. There was little depth in their personalities and in their relationships. I didn’t buy any of it.
So, you may be wondering, why are you rating this book 4/5 stars? Because I liked it, that is why. For the few hours I dedicated to this novel, I was entertained. I laughed a bit. I smiled and had fun reading. I wanted to know what would happen next.
Are there problems with this book? Heck yeah. A lot more than I mentioned here. But if you don’t think about it and let yourself get dragged into this cute, borderline cheesy, story, then you will have a good time.
I honestly don’t know if I might change my mind about this rating later.
What did you guys think of this book? Did you love it? Hate it? Did you find any problems with it? Also, have you read Nicola Yoon’s other YA contemporary The Sun is Also a Star? How do you compare it to this one?