Sunday, August 30, 2015

Being Rapunzel: Everything, Everything by Nicola Joon

Maddy is eighteen years old. She has spent her life in the safe and sterile 'bubble' home her mother has created. Maddy has never been outdoors, breathed fresh air, touched another human being other than her mother--after her mother has gone through a sterilization process that removes outside containments. Anything foreign could bring on an allergic illness that could kill Maddy. And the family has already lost Maddy's father and brother in a tragic accident. Maddy has SCID, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency.

Maddy has accepted her reality until a new family moves in next door. From her bedroom window she watches them, especially the son Ollie. From their bedroom windows and through instant messaging the teens communicate and fall in love.

Maddy is like Rapunzel in her tower, Ollie thinks. Unattainable, locked away from the world.

Nicola Joon's young adult book Everything, Everything  keeps one's interest and is an enjoyable read. Maddy's voice is charming. I liked her very much. There are cute illustrations of Maddy's thoughts and drawings, keeping things upbeat and funny. Love interest Olly has an interesting back story with his own family secrets and tragedy. Teenage girl readers will love Ollie. My early hunch about the ending proved correct, but teen readers will be surprised by the twist at the end.

(SPOILER ALERT!)* The couple find a way to meet, they run away to Hawaii, discover sex, and Maddy has a near death experience. *(Alert Ended)

The story of young love and impending doom, the interlude together, and the inevitable separation sounds like The Fault in Our Stars but with a happier ending. I am sure it was meant for the same market. I don't much care for the message that true love sex is 'everything'. But this book was not meant for me. It's meant for romantic young teenage girls who like wish fulfillment and fairy tale endings and characters that are likable. A story with just enough philosophy, nothing too deep, not too much angst. This book will suit them just fine.

I am interested in the mother's need to protect her daughter from the world and keep her to herself. The theme has a long literary tradition: The girl child forced to remain at home, dependent, protected, and safe, or to be the parent's companion and compensation for other losses. Ollie brings up the image of Maddy as Rapunzel, foreshadowing a reality not yet discovered.

"...she saw that he was young and handsome, she thought: "He will love me more than old Dame Gothel does, and she said yes, and laid her hand in his." 

"Ah! you wicked child,' cried the enchantress. "What do I hear you say! I thought I had separated you from all the world, and yet you have deceived me!"

from Rapunzel

The 1844 short story Rapaccini's Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is about a daughter kept in a poisonous garden by her father; the daughter will poison anyone who touches her. She meets a man, they fall in love, and he discover's the father's selfish plot to keep the girl for himself. The story of a poisonous girl can be traced back to ancient India.

In Poldark season one Ross's cousin Francis is against his sister Verity marrying an 'unsuitable' man: he is not their kind and he is associated with scandal. After she runs off to marry her man, another reason arises: the family and servants are all ill with 'putrid throat' and Francis bemoans that his sister should have been home to care for their needs. He has kept Verity single and dependent for personal interests.

Sometimes daughters are wanted at home to be servants, to run the household or play hostess. Or to play nurse to aging parents. Sometimes parents desire to protect them from the world. And sometimes they are wanted at home because a parent is afraid of being alone.

Sadly, children, especially girl children, have often been victims of a parent who demands their life time loyalty. As a girl in the 1950s we had a neighbor who never married. Her mother had died, her brother went to war and then out West. Her father demanded she stay home and care for him. She lived in her unchanged childhood home all her life, her last years alone and in worsening poverty. She cleaned houses. She sold off her family heirlooms, which had become valuable antiques, and the land that had been the family farm, even the barn and garden plot surrounding the house. We loved her father, but now I see his old world values had defrauded his daughter of a life.

Maddy's mother undergoes therapy to deal with the trauma of loss and her over-protectiveness of her only surviving family member. Maddy's life began at age eighteen, when she gained everything, everything.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Everything, Everything
by Nicola Joon
Random House Delacourt Press
Publication date September 1, 2015
ISBN 9780553496642
$18.99 hard cover

"Yoon gives readers complex characters and rich dialogue that ranges from humorous to philosophical. This heartwarming story transcends the ordinary by exploring the hopes, dreams, and inherent risks of love in all of its forms."
— Kirkus, Starred Review