I’ve been reading more YA than usual recently, and found some great books, the latest of which is this, by Nicola Yoon.
Maddy is allergic to the world. She hasn’t left her house in seventeen years.
Olly is the boy next door. He’s determined to find a way to reach her.
The premise is pretty simple: girl meets boy, falls in love. The twist is that Maddy suffers from SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency), more commonly referred to as ‘bubble baby disease’. She lives at home in LA with her mum, who is a doctor, and is pretty much cut off from the world around her. She studies online and reads lots of books, but her only contact with anyone other than her mum is Carla, the nurse who comes in each day. There are air locks on the doors, and the entire house has been adapted to filter the air of anything that might make Maddy ill. Maddy’s mum has been able to afford these changes as they were awarded a settlement after an overtired truck driver caused the traffic accident that killed Maddy’s father and brother years before when she was a baby.
The story is kick started when Olly’s family move in across the street. Maddy tries not to get involved Olly’s family fascinate her. While he practices parkour, his sister Kara is clearly troubled, and his father has a quick temper that Maddy suspects turns to violence on occasion. When Olly writes his email address on his bedroom window in black marker she has to contact him and a swift friendship is formed.
From a basic teenage love story, Yoon manages to elevate it to another level with her characters. Maddy is well written, and I could feel her desperation to have a life outside of the four walls of her house. I loved the messages that she and Olly sent back and forth, and the illustrations throughout (created by Yoon’s husband David, an illustrator) were a nice addition. I was very much rooting for them throughout what seemed like an impossible situation…
Which then brings me on to the one small issue: with Maddy trapped indoors with an incurable illness all I could think of was how the author was going to resolve the story. Nurse Carla alleviates the situation for a while by letting Olly sneak visits, going through a lengthy decontamination procedure each, but when Maddy’s mum finds out, she sacks Carla and Maddy is back to square one. I found myself looking for clues to how the story might pan out, and in the end I did guess correctly (don’t worry! no spoilers here) but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment. I think Yoon just about gets away with it because she constructs the world with the novel so robustly.
Overall, a book full of emotion; enjoyable and unputdownable.