Class Novel: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Aspects of a great class (or group/book club) read:
- Strong themes
- Intriguing discussion points
- Tough aspects of life faced by teens daily
As I was recently devouring Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, I found all five of my above points. If you’re unfamiliar with the title, here’s a summary:
Madeline Whittier has a disease that is both famous and rare: Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, also known as “bubble baby disease.” She has spent all 18 years of her life inside her house, where she lives with her mom and is visited each day by her nurse, Carla, for regular health logs. Madeline is highly allergic to…everything. She never knows what could make her sick.
Every day is the same for Madeline. Every year is the same. Her mom is her best friend, and she lost her father and brother in a car accident when she was just a baby; so Madeline has no memory of them, and she is all her mom has in the world. With just Madeline, her mom, and Carla, Madaline’s life would make a pretty boring novel.
That is, if it wasn’t for the boy who just moved in next door: Olly. A boy dressed completely in black with so much energy that Madeline’s first impression of him involves watching him sprint up and jump off the side of his new home.
Olly becomes just as fascinated in Madeline, the girl in the window, as she is in him. He writes his email address in the window, and before long, Madeline can think nothing else but of Olly and chatting with him online.
But just like Madeline, Olly doesn’t have a perfect life. His father suffers from alcoholism and abuses Olly’s mom. Madeline can only watch from her window, but after meeting Olly, she strangely finds herself growing away from her mom and wanting more and more from the world.
Why this novel is great for the high school classroom: Themes found in this book involve family, loss/grief, the delicacies of growing up, what it means to become an adult, and the importance of living life no matter your circumstances. Discussion points are found all throughout the book based on Madeline’s decisions, how she feels, and other characters in the book. Students will be immersed in Madeline’s life and always want to know what’s happening next.
I also see great cross-curricular activities for this book involving science, specifically biology or health. I would love to have students research aspects of this novel after or during the novel unit. Research topics can include: Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa (the Hawaiian state fish which happens to be an interest of Madeline’s), mental illness, and alcholism or related topics.
Please note that there is one instance of mature content that is very delicatly and tastefully written. I would only consider using this novel in the high school classroom.
Overall, please read, please enjoy, and consider adding this book (available in hardcover, but printing in paperback this spring) as a possible novel set for your classroom.