Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.
I am excited to share this book that seemed to have captured the minds and hearts of a great many people, and with good reason too and which I felt was perfect given our current reading theme.
Written by: Nicola Yoon Illustrations by: David Yoon
Published by: Delacorte Press, 2015 ISBN: 0553496646 (ISBN13: 9780553496642) Book Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Debut Goodreads Author, and for Young Adult Fiction (2015), YALSA’s Best Books for Young Adults (2016). Book borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
Madeline Whittier has been cooped up in her home for practically her entire life. She suffers from a rare disease called SCID or Severe Combined ImmunoDeficiency – which means that she has a compromised immune system, making her vulnerable to the world and everything in it. The room in which she stays in even has filtered air.
It does help that she has a lovely mother (who also happens to be a medical doctor, so that’s a plus if you’re sick) with whom she plays Fonetik and Honor Pictionary with – and there is Carla, her Nurse, who meticulously monitors her vitals every single day while her mother is at work. Much of what Madeline knows about the outside world, she learned from her virtual tutors (homeschooling) and her books that she treasures dearly – I believe it is this part that made me really pay attention to the story. I enjoyed her spoiler book reviews and her thoughts about the novels she is currently reading.
Despite her chronic illness, Madeline struck me as unbelievably good-natured. For someone who can not feel the sun in her face, or the wind in her hair, she seemed pretty put together. That she is biracial is also a non-issue in this story, just a matter of fact. Of course, things had to become complicated when the handsome Olly with the golden biceps moved in next door. Naturally, he had to have an issue, because young girls like brokenness, not too much that it’s virtually useless in your hands, but just enough that it’s fixable. Olly’s father is an abusive drunk who beats up his family – and the seriousness of the situation becomes very evident the more that Madeline watches and listens to what is happening next door through her window – and yes, through their IMs and chats via the internet.
Well, what is the one thing that makes a lot of good girls rebel? It almost always has to do with love: boys or girls whatever floats the good girls’ boat. I did enjoy the romance bit, this is most definitely YA, the blush and thrill and butterflies of first love are all there to enjoy. The fact that it is a relationship doomed from the start makes it even more appealing. That is simply how it is. The fact that I finished reading the novel in two days’ time is a testament to how effective this formula is.
That being said, I still do have quite a number of issues with the book, particularly towards the end. *** Spoiler alert. *** If you haven’t read the novel, you might want to skip this part.
I am not sure if it is just me, but am I the only one who worries about the financial feasibility of the characters’ life decisions? I had no issue with Madeline’s death-defying act of rebellion and her desire to be free, that is but natural, compounded even more by the fact that she is in love. But … running away and using your credit card paid for by your mother whom you have abandoned and set aside for looove – seems to me to be somewhat irresponsible. She essentially had a honeymoon – with her mother paying for her hotel in Hawaii, and such an extravagant tryst, at that. Clearly, her mother had something to pay for (you’d find out why if you read the novel), but it just didn’t feel right to me. Olly doesn’t seem like someone who had money too, so expensive restaurants and shopping while in Hawaii? How? I couldn’t shake off the sense of privileged entitlement and the absurdity of leaving home (there’s the New York bit in the end too!) without financial means to carry it out successfully – on your own terms, not owing anyone anything. Or is it just me who worries too much about it? I think I can not divorce my own reality and background from what I read, that it does take a little bit of the enjoyment and the magic away from the story.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I loved the book and its premise. Except those bits I mentioned. I also especially loved that book cover – the pristine white background and the colourful chaos brought about by the mess that is love.