The outside world is a treacherous place for seventeen year-old Maddy. One breath of unfiltered air could send her into a fatal downward spiral. She lives enclosed in a safe, sterile environment with only her mother and nurse for company. Then one day movers come, bringing with them a new family and a boy dressed in black. A boy Maddy longs to know. And suddenly her world is too small.
Maddy’s narrative is accompanied by random snippets: super short movie synopses, clever charts and definitions that speak to Maddy’s state of mind, and transcripts of instant messages exchanged between Maddy and Olly.
The story is witty and cute and definitely packed with romantic tension. I was as enamored with Olly as Maddy was upon his entrance to her life. He’s fun and smart, yet has that sort of dark, angsty mystery to him, as well.
Confession: I snooped and read a spoiler (which I immediately regretted) before reading the book for myself. I was worried that knowing a major twist (which the reviewer felt was too perfect or too simplistic) would affect my ability to enjoy the story and really stay in the moment while reading it.
I found the characters so engaging that I wasn’t bothered by knowing what would happen. The outcome felt organic to me, and much more plausible within the context of the story than the review had made it seem.
The one thing that rang a little false to me was Maddy’s confidence about the outside world. I would have expected her to have more anxiety, even if she felt like the risks would be worthwhile. She seemed a little too in control at some moments.
All in all, though, I felt like Yoon does an amazing job with the character development and with the reference to poetry, philosophy and math. Those parts along with the situation concerning Maddy’s health elevate the story from a common contemporary teen romance to something much more substantive. Readers who enjoy books by John Green and movies like The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or The Truman Show should give this novel a read.
A handful of instances of brief strong profanity, usually in reference to a drunk man berating his family.
One sex scene – includes a short description of what happens. Their bodies “moving together” and that sort of thing. It is supposed to be Maddy’s first sexual experience, but it goes remarkably smoothly. While I’m not disappointed by the lack of detail, I feel like it is a bit of a fairy tale experience.
Madeleine and Olly briefly discuss ideas about hope and faith – more general, less specific to any one religion really. He is pretty convinced there’s nothing more out there in the universe whereas Maddy finds the idea of faith appealing.
Maddy spies on neighbors and witnesses a confrontation that turns violent.