update september 2017
Lowered to 3 stars because every time I think about this book, I like it less and less. Ableism and insta-love mixed with what is realistically just… not amazing writing. 🙁 I probably won’t pick up any more of Nicola’s books in the future.
ORIGINAL REVIEW BELOW:
“I was happy before I met him. But I’m alive now, and those are not the same thing.”
Reread review time! I originally gave this 5 stars when I read it last year, but upon rereading it, I had to lower it to 4 stars. While I still really enjoyed the relationship that develops between Maddy and Olly, I feel like just six months of reviewing books has really shifted the way I analyze the things that I read, and I had to knock a star off for a few issues that I’ll explain later in the review.
Madeline lives a pretty happy life; as happy as anyone can be when they’ve been trapped inside their house their entire life, that is. Maddy has SCID, an autoimmune disorder that has essentially rendered her allergic to the entire outside world. She spends her days taking her classes from home, skyping with her professors, reading anything she can get her hands on, and spending time with her mother, Dr. Whittier, and her nurse, Carla. Everything goes to hell when Olly moves in next door, though, and she begins to fall in love. As she develops feelings she’s never known before, Madeline starts to wonder: is life worth living if you’re not experiencing everything it has to offer?
WHAT I LIKED ➳➳
First and foremost, this is a YA contemporary romance, so naturally, the most important aspect of the book is the romance… and let me tell you, Maddy and Olly are adorabletogether. Their banter is so fun, the flirting is adorable, and when they finally get to be together in person, it’s just nonstop heartwarming fuzzies and smiles.
I also really enjoy Madeline as a character. Despite her obstacles, she comes across as incredibly mature, as though she’s more or less accepted the hand she’s been dealt. She only begins to question things when she feels like she can’t be separate from Olly, and anyone who’s been in love knows how hard those feelings can be to ignore, so can you blame her?
WHAT I DISLIKED ➳➳
*cracks knuckles* Okay… if you’ve been around the YA book community for a while, you’ve probably heard at least a snippet of the controversy surrounding this book. Without spoiling anything, we’ll just say that SCID is not repped well at all in this book, and there’s a big “twist” that is… well, a bit insensitive, to be frank. I heard about the controversy after my first read of this book, and didn’t really see where it was coming from, to be honest – I’m sorry to say that, even as someone who deals with chronic pain/illness, I wasn’t as empathetic as I should have been. Upon rereading the book, I was just kind of like, “… whoa. I get it now.”
Essentially, Madeline is willing to throw away literally her life to be with Olly for a few days, which in and of itself is not a terrible plot arc – it’s very 90s Disney-esque, I guess – but the fact that she is capable of doing so feels a little less than sympathetic regarding teens who suffer from these real-life disorders and don’t get to make choices like that on a whim.
Then, there’s the infamous “plot twist”… **SPOILER** Maddy isn’t even sick. Her mother’s been faking the entire thing for Madeline’s entire life to keep her home in a safe, little bubble. **END SPOILER** I won’t sit here and go on a rant about it, because frankly, I don’t know how to put how I’m feeling into words, but it just rubbed me wrong enough that I couldn’t, in good conscience, leave this book at a 5-star rating.
FINAL VERDICT ➳➳
At the end of the day, the romance in this book is really cute, and if you’re looking for a sweet teen love story, here you go! I just wouldn’t go into this book expecting anything earth-shaking. If you suffer from chronic pain/illness, I would especially like to offer a word of caution because the ending of this book just might piss you off.