by Nicola Yoon; illustrations by David Yoon
5 out of 5 stars
I had read wonderful reviews of this book, and I wasn’t disappointed! One of the things that I liked best was how unique and original the main character, Madeline, is. Madeline is 18 years old and has been confined to her sterilized house because of a rare disease known as Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), or “bubble baby disease.” Maddie’s room is stark white, her shirts are all white, her pants are all blue jeans, and her shoes are all white. Madeline is also a character with diverse heritage, which is refreshing.
Into Maddie’s world a new boy moves in next door. Watching her neighbors out her bedroom window is Maddie’s way to engage in the world, and she is fascinated by Olly, the cute boy who is into parkour. He climbs through windows and does mysterious things on the roof of his house. Olly’s wardrobe is all black. The author has chosen to highlight wardrobe colors as an outward sign of the differences in the two characters, but these mismatched souls soon bond over an indestructible bundt cake and instant messaging.
While it felt that a love story between Maddie and Olly developed a little too quickly, I was able to buy into their growing romance and really root for them as a couple. There are a wealth of emotions in the book, and I felt each one along with Maddie and Olly. As Maddie starts to experiment with the confines of her world, I felt a sense of joy for her, along with a hearty dose of concern and stress. I always felt that she was one experience away from death, which she was.
The overall message that the reader is meant to ponder through Maddie’s story is the difference between being alive and truly living your life. At one point, Maddie is pondering her love for Olly and says, “…love opens you up to the world. I was happy before I met him. But I’m alive now, and those are not the same thing.” (180)
I was invested in this story from the very first page, and was rooting for Maddie every step of the way. There is a slight twist in the plot, close to the end, that caught me by surprise. I really enjoyed everything about this book, from the whimsical cover art to the beautiful story. I do recommend reading the print version to truly appreciate the art and different illustrations throughout the text.