When I picked up Everything, Everything, it was during a time when most books were taking me about a week to read, no matter the page-number or genre. It wasn't that I was overly busy, or in a real book slump; but for whatever reason, I couldn't gain the momentum to make significant progress in any book. But as soon as I started Everything, Everything, I knew that was going to change -- I read this book in two days.
If that doesn't tell you how much I adored and couldn't put down this novel, nothing will.
On the outside, Everything, Everything seems like it might be a little bit contrived -- a girl who cannot leave her house falls in love with a boy who lives across the street. But the characters are what make this book so extraordinarily wonderful. The girl is Madeline, who was diagnosed with a disease called SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency) -- which basically means that anything could potentially make her deathly sick. She has lived in one home her entire life -- a home that is temperature-regulated and totally sealed off from the outside world. (Seriously, there is an airlock on the front door and everything.) The boy is Olly, whose family moves into the house across the street from Madeline's. While they're moving in, the two share a look -- window to driveway, driveway to window -- and both of their lives are changed forever.
More than anything else, Madeline and Olly made this book, for me. I adored these two. Both of them are, to an extent, trapped in their own lives. Madeline is, obviously, trapped in the house she can't leave, almost literally on pain of death. She's idealistic and a little bit naive and obviously sheltered; but she's very smart, very well-read, and she's got a streak of independence that I loved. And Olly is trapped in his troubled family, with a parent unable to take the steps necessary to get Olly and his sister out of a bad situation. But despite it all, he's got a fantastic sense of humor, and such a good heart. When Olly and Madeline see each other, and then finally begin corresponding via emails and IM's, they form a connection that neither has experienced before. And let me tell you, they are adorable.
These two are smile-till-your-cheeks-hurt cute. Ugh. Disgustingly cute -- and I say that with the utmost adoration. Their relationship might be a bit insta-love-ish, but honestly, I couldn't care less, because I believed it. The two of them just clicked, and I could not get enough of them. Them being adorable while instant-messaging, having late-night conversations through their windows (a mix of pantomiming and writing-on-windows, since Madeline's window doesn't open)... and in the very beginning, there's a hilarious scenario involving an indestructible Bundt cake (you just have to read it). Ugh! They were ridiculously cute.
But it wasn't just their cuteness that I loved (though that was a perk). Their relationship struck me as incredibly honest, and so refreshing. Their lives are so complicated, but their relationship at its core is just so simply wonderful, and I just loved that.
Another great thing about Everything, Everything is the way it's written. Not only is the writing engaging, often beautiful, and totally believable for Madeline's first-person narration; but it's written in a mix of short narrative chapters, instant message conversations, emails, lists, diagrams that Madeline draws... The mediums vary, and it all adds up to a really awesome mix of chapters that are fun to read, heartfelt, adorable, and incredibly meaningful.
I did have one small quibble with something that happened at the end of the book -- it wasn't so much that I actively disliked this element, but, while not being predictable, it was sort of an odd twist, and I can't really say whether I liked it or not. It was... interesting. But other than that, not a single complaint about this book. It was so much fun, full of sweetness and heart, and I loved every minute of it.
I feel like this review is sparse on details, for which I apologize -- but I'm also not sorry, because I do not want to be responsible for spoiling anything about this book for you. It's just something you have to experience for yourself, and I think it's best to go in knowing as little as possible.
Actually, I almost missed out on this book -- I picked it up at ALA on a whim because I'd heard so many good things, but I am super picky about contemporaries, so I didn't really expect much. I was so, so pleasantly surprised. This book is adorable (have I said that enough?), the romance is so sweet, and it is filled with so many beautiful moments. If that sounds like something you're in the mood for, don't hesitate like I did. Pick up Everything, Everythingimmediately.
I am very hard to please when it comes to contemporaries, and I'll be the first to admit that. Contemporaries usually don't get 5 stars from me -- they can be fluffy and fun or heartfelt or whatever, but for me, they often just lack that lksdaldsfasomg feeling (yes that is the scientific term) that I need in order to rate a book 5 stars.
In short: I adored this book. I think I adored this book from the moment I read the synopsis, honestly, because how can you not read that synopsis and not want a book that fulfills all that potential?! I loved that potential book -- and that potential book turned out to be real.
I love it when that happens.
From the very beginning, Bex is wonderful. The Anatomical Shape of a Heart is written in first-person from her POV, and she is amazing. She describes herself as "pleasantly dour and serious," which is pretty much spot-on. Her humor is fantastic (not over-the-top, just real), and she's not perfect (not nearly -- she can be not-nice, and she's got her weaknesses). But I think my favorite thing about her was that she's an incredibly driven character -- she knows what she wants and she's not afraid to fight for it, whether it's an art scholarship, or, eventually, a relationship...
But it wasn't just anyone. It was a boy.
A boy about my age.
A really hot boy about my age.
Loose-limbed and slim, he slouched against the telephone pole, pushing away an unruly slash of dark hair that fell over one eye. He was dressed from head to toe in black, as if he'd landed a starring role in some Italian caper movie and was ready to break into a bank: jeans, snug jacket, knit hat pulled low. Tight black gloves covered his hands, and a scuffed backpack (probably filled with explosive devices for the bank safe) sat on the sidewalk against his leg.
[...] "Too much black?"
"Not if you're planning a heist. Then it's the perfect amount, especially if you have a Hamburglar mask in your pocket."
"Damn," he said, patting his jacket. "Knew I forgot something."
Jack is literally everything I wanted out of his character after reading the synopsis -- and so much more. He's an amazing mix of genuine and mysterious; very open about some things, but very secretive about other parts of his life, because he's dealing with a lot. More than anything, Jack is one of those characters who's real and good (but not too good -- notorious graffiti artist here) and he just gives me all the feels omg.
And speaking of 'omg'... Bex and Jack together?O. M. G. That snippet above is a very small sample of their initial meeting, and from then on, their rapport and banter are flawless. They can be hilariously, adorably cute; their chemistry is off the charts; and their relationship progresses so beautifully and realistically. It's not love-at-first-sight -- Bex is a bit abrasive the first few times she and Jack hang out, even though the attraction is mutual 'at-first-sight.' But as they get to know one another, their relationship just happens, and I loved that.
I also loved that their character growth wasn't all about their relationship. Their lives independent from one another are so complex and heart-wrenching, and they're both going through a lot. But they're there for each other, and the two of them together are just... I believed them. I believed in them. The two of them, even with their shared artistic interest, were so different -- but they fit together so perfectly.
Bex and Jack are probably my favorite contemporary couple since Sky and Josh inHeather Demetrios's I'll Meet You There. This book isn't as dramatic, but it had the same feeling of realness, for me, which is so hard for me to find in contemporaries -- and that's what gives me that aslkdjfalsdkomg feeling I mentioned earlier.
The secondary characters -- especially Bex's and Jack's families -- were so well done. I adored Bex's brother. Jack's family is just... well, spoilers, but there are many feels involved where his family is concerned. And both Bex's and Jack's parents were (gasp!) present and attentive to their children's lives! How novel! But that shouldn't surprise you about this book, because everything is treated so realistically.
Finally, I have to touch on the ending. (Very slight spoilers-but-not-really, but I'm paranoid so you get a spoiler cut anyway...) (view spoiler)[I often have a hard time dealing with both the overly-tied-up YA contemps, and the super-realistic-but-very-open-ended ones. I get that a lot of endings just can't be tied up with a bow, but gosh darn it I want some real closure!! Thankfully, the ending to this book took a middle road that I really, really liked. (hide spoiler)]
I really, truly believe that this book is the best of ALL worlds when it comes to the YA contemporary genre. Do you like your YA contemps to be funny and cute? This book is for you. Do you like them to deal with some more serious topics? This book is for you, too. Do you have trouble with a lot of contemps, like me? Do you find them overly fluffy? Or too serious? Or unrealistic? Guess what -- this book is for you, too. (I feel like Oprah -- YOU GET A BOOK YOU'LL LOVE, YOU GET A BOOK YOU'LL LOVE, EVERYONE GETS A BOOK THEY'LL LOVE!!!)
Seriously though. The Anatomical Shape of a Heart has it all -- honesty, humor, heartfelt emotion, a wonderful romance... girls who sneak into hospitals to draw cadavers, and guys who dress all in black to spraypaint graffiti at night... ;) What's not to love?!