Author Nicola Yoon has changed the teenage storytelling landscape in print and on screen with Everything, Everything.
If you’ve turned on a TV, walked into a bookstore, or checked Snapchat filters in the last two weeks, odds are that Everything, Everything has flitted past.
The movie, based on Nicola Yoon’s New York Times bestselling novel of the same name, has a familiar premise, but with a twist or two: Girl is living her ordinary life, boy moves in next door, girl and boy fall in love… but the girl can’t go outside. Ever.
The main character, Maddy, has S.C.I.D. (severe combined immunodeficiency, aka “bubble boy disease”) and has to live in a hermetically-sealed house for her entire life. As of her eighteenth birthday, she can’t remember ever going outside.
She’s managed to be reasonably happy, until Olly moves in next door and she wants more. Namely, she wants to be outside in the world… and she wants to be in love.
Although story has all the trappings of an all-filler-no-killer teen romance, Everything, Everything has an the undercurrent of personal identity and one hell of a twist (no spoilers!) that sets it apart.
The power of existing is both a theme of the novel and the meta-narrative of the film adaptation. Yoon wrote Everything, Everything with a half African American, half Korean-American main character so that her own daughter would have someone in a story who looked like her. Yoon writes, “I want her to know that she can be the hero of a story, and not just the sidekick.”
As the pre-production of the film gathered steam, the creative direction reinforced Yoon’s values of diverse representation. When director Stella Meghie signed on to the project, she became the first woman of color to direct a young adult story for Warner Bros.
Amandla Stenberg, who plays Maddy, described the significance of the role: “I could just exist, and be whimsical, and listen to the internet, and have a crush on this boy.”
In case that’s not enough, some other reasons to read and see Everything, Everything:
- Nicola Yoon is a remarkable writer, by both consumer and industry standards. Everything, Everything and her second novel, The Sun Is Also A Star, have both hit number one on the New York Times Young Adult Bestseller list, and have remained on the list for a combined 74 weeks. Not to mention that Star was a National Book Award Finalist in 2016.
- Rue from The Hunger Games is all grown up and acting the hell out of her leading role. Stenberg plays the earnest spirit of first love impeccably, and reminds everyone what it’s like to be so happy and yet so vulnerable.
- Beyoncé herself snuck into the Hollywood screening. What more can you ask for?
- No one is static, from the nurse-slash-match-maker Carla (Ana de la Reguera), to Maddy’s mother (Anika Noni Rose), whose relationship to her teenage daughter is much more than traditional role is portrayed in most books and movies.
- It passes the Bechdel test despite being a love story: there are more than two named women in the film, and they talk to each other about something other than men. In fact, there is only one guy, and the mother doesn’t even know about him for quite some time.
- Visually stunning. Because Maddy lives in a bubble, the scenery and design manipulates how beautiful everything that is off-limits seems: trees, the ocean, or even a paved driveway.
- The opening chords of “Sound & Color” by Alabama Shakes have a show-stopper moment. (As they should.)
- The disease is serious, the story is whimsical. For example, since Maddy can’t go outside, she and Olly text a lot, but she imagines each conversation as face to face, in a place that she’s designed herself.
- The chemistry feels real. Whether it’s between mother-daughter, or Maddy-Olly, love is all around.
- It really is all about the love. As Yoon quotes from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “Love is everything. Everything.”
Disclosure of Material Connection: I am an employee at Penguin Random House, the company that published this book. Regardless, I only recommend books that I have personally read and believe will be good for my readers.