Right after finishing and loving The Sun is Also a Star, I ran out to the library and got Nicola Yoon’s first novel, Everything, Everything. Though I didn’t love it quite as much as her second book, I thought it was engaging, moving, and well-constructed. I also can see Yoon starting to think through some minor themes that become major themes in The Sun is Also a Star.
This novel is a love story, but it’s not your typical teen romance. Madeline Whittier, who is eighteen years old, is confined to her house due to an immune deficiency that leaves her susceptible to almost any environmental triggers. She is, as she notes, “allergic to the world” and so everything–her books, her clothes, her mom and her nurse, Carla, must be decontaminated before she comes in contact with them. Though she has had bouts of depression in the past, Madeline now feels content with her life—focused on learning as much as she can through books and other means. She tries not to think about all the normal things she can’t experience—like attending high school or dating.
However, things change, as they often do, when a new family moves in next door and the teenage son, Olly, is Madeline’s age. Madeline is intrigued by the boy, who dresses all in black, and does crazy parkour moves—including climbing up onto the roof of his house. He also seems to be interested in her, which sends shockwaves through Madeline’s safe and controlled environment. She thought she had gotten over wanting things, but Olly’s appearance and her developing friendship with him have reawakened her impossible dreams of a normal life.
There’s a lot to like about both Madeline and Olly and their individual situations, and Yoon captures the dance of attraction, especially as played out via texts, realistically and sweetly. I also like the matter-of-fact way the novel introduces Madeline’s biracial identity (half-Japanese and half African-American) as no big thing. The novel goes in some expected and unexpected directions, and I don’t want to give away too much. However, I can say that this novel is all about the importance of living and taking risks. At this point, after reading her first two novels, I consider Nicola Yoon a must-read author for me, and I’m excited to see what she does next.