Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Corgi Children’s (3rd Sept 2015)
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.
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I wanted to love this book in the way I imagined I would - really, I did - but twas not meant to be. The book was going pretty okay for about 85% of the way, until the final 15% hit and for me, it totally unravelled the story. But let’s start from the start, shall we?
Meet Maddie - diagnosed with SCID, a disease that in laymen’s terms, means she’s allergic to everything. She’s allergic to the world. Her life as she knows it at 18, is staying in the house she hasn’t left her whole life, with her attentive loving, Doctor of a mother, and Nurse Carla, her companion and only friend. Her days revolve around Skype classes, homework, projects, assignments. In her spare time she reads books upon books, and dreams of a world she isn’t a part of. Your normal teen basically, except for the fact, you know, she would die if she went outside. Living inside a house that filters it’s air constantly, decontamination on the regular, specific foods and snacks, for Maddy, it’s the know life she’s known and accepted. Until that day. THAT ONE DAY. When a moving van for next door brings with it a possibility that changes her life. That one day, where out the moving van emerges Olly, clad in all black from head to toe. Olly who unwittingly looks up and catches her at the window - and Maddy knew, she was going to love this boy.
I know what you’re thinking already, this book screams cliche from the top of it’s lungs - and it pretty much is, you’d be right in that. But this story draws you in slowly. We see as Maddy and Olly interact, their lives intersect, a friendship blossoms and a romance pushes it’s way in. Through illustrations and IM conversations, I actually love these minute little details and drawings the author included which spaced out the progress of their relationship and made it a fun read for me personally. I always love a creative touch like that.
Admittedly, yes Maddy and Olly’s relationship has a strong pungent smell of insta-love just wafting all over it - but in this case, I can actually let the author get away with it. Because Maddy is this 18 year old girl, who hasn’t been outside in her whole life. Whose whole world is contained within the four white walls and the only interaction she has is her Mum, Carla, and the occasional architect teacher who comes to check her work. Of course she’s going to become irrationally and crazy in love (Beyonce pun intended) at the sight of a cute boy who moves in next door, I mean who wouldn’t? Let’s face it, teens have a tendency of planning their wedding and future life within the first 10 minutes of talking to an attractive guy/girl - Maddy is no different, if anything more accelerated due to the lack of contact she usually ever has.
The characters themselves were okay really, nothing spectacular, no mind blowing characteristics that separate them from the usual cluster of YA teens. But that’s again okay in this book, to be unremarkable, because it felt like it was more about the connection these characters forged in the face of their circumstances, rather than everything else. Clad all in black, sweet impulsive and kinetic energy personified, Olly seems like this opposite to Maddy, whose whole room is white, from the bookshelves right down to her 8 pairs of white canvas shoes and t-shirts. Olly comes from an abusive family, whilst Maddy has only known love and affection from her Mother - yet these two individuals collide, and I somewhat like the poetry in their differences. Their conversations had me silently laughing, their wit and humour and their ability to just be teens, without the whole grandeur or attempting to be older or wiser. I appreciate that. Throw in the fact that Maddy is from African-American descent and half Japanese, I love the fact the author has thrown this lifeline of diversity in there - though I do wish her roots and what it means to be from such a background, was explored slightly more.
As for the other characters, I do also wish we got some more insight into Olly’s and Maddy’s family - specially his little sister Kara who captured my attention. I wanted more depth and interaction from all the other characters involved, which to be honest could have been done without making the book hugely long, given that there were only about 5 additional characters aside from Olly and Maddy. I just felt like everything to do with the characters and storyline itself needed to be more more more more. Even though Maddy has this disease, she still seems to lead an ordinary life, - I feel like through some changes we could have been enlightened to the reality of such a disease and education readers about it, instead of us seeing that Maddy has a fairly normal life aside from the whole not being allowed out thing.
Unremarkable though it may be, I did enjoy the story until I got about 3/4 of the way in and the twist was revealed. A twist I suspected actually once I heard about what happened to her Dad and brother when she was younger, but I will admit I really hated the reasoning behind the twist and the elaborate setup that was used in order to make this fully work. Were there ever no questions raised by Carla, or Maddy herself? In such a situation, how do you really and truly accept what you’ve ben dealt and told by those in your life, without looking into it yourself? It somewhat threw me off the authenticity of the book after that, and the subsequent events that followed just felt harried and rushed to me, especially the end. There was no neat tie up, though to be honest I somewhat expected a sad or bittersweet ending that would have made me appreciate and like the book more.
The cover on the other hand, is stunning and I love love love it. I thoroughly enjoyed the illustrations and those additional creative aspects of the book, and yes, silly though it may seem, the whole scene with the suicidal bundt cake killed me (pun intended). In the end though, this book had so much potential to be explosive and make a real mark, but I’ll settle for it being a good read just to get me through a slump.