Hey guys! A week ago it was my One Year Blogaversary. Yep! It’s Me, Lizzie! has been around for a year now. Due to some unfortunate health stuff, today is the first day that I’ve been able to celebrate, but I really do want to celebrate. So let’s do it!
I love superhero stories. The superhero story is kind of timeless. This one … this one is sadly less so.
Even before rereading it for this review, this is one of the Jacqueline Wilson books that I best remembered from my childhood—and for good reason.
I’ve mentioned it before (somewhere) but after reading Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon I struggled to review it, and in the end I pretty much didn’t. There is no denying that I really wanted to, and I did try a good few times, but it just didn’t happen.
Recently, however, I’ve been thinking about my biggest thought on this book. The thought that never left me and made me want to review it so much at all. So, let’s talk about that today.
Before we continue, this post will spoil this book to shit. Be warned.
I need to start off by saying that I do not think that this is a bad book. It’s easy to get that impression when a piece focuses on a specific flaw of a piece of writing, but I read this book in two days (very rare for me, for various reasons which I won’t discuss here) and the second I put it down, I loved it. I instantly gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. However, I later thought about that decision and changed my rating. On my Goodreads, Everything, Everything is currently rated 4 stars.
I went back and forth. But apparently, it wasn’t too much of a problem for me. If I reread it now I have a feeling I would change it, but without actually rereading it that’s just a feeling.
If you don’t know, Everything, Everything is a book about a girl, Madeline, who is unable to leave her house due to her rare disease. She falls in love with Olly, the boy who moves in on her street, and things progress from there. And it’s interesting that I was so invested in this book, too, because it’s rare for me to pick up a book in which the main focus is romance.
This book was sweet, cute, charming. It gave me a connection to its protagonist and a connection to its romance. And often as a reader, I struggle to connect with romance at all. Which is why, as both a reader and a writer, I often avoid them. So kudos to this book.
But this book did have something which just … distracted me. Took me out of it. Robbed it of its arc, it’s conflict, and in turn its depth and its emotional heart.
This book has a twist. And oh, don’t you just love a twist? They’re either going to add a new depth to the story that you never saw before, or they’re going to end up with you going “Okay, but…” and never really being connected to the world of the story again.
I’m not criticising Everything, Everything when I say that it’s not breaking out of the mould of narrative structure. The overwhelming majority of stories don’t, and for good reason. It’s almost impossible to do so effectively. I’ve written metafiction. It is … not easy. No, with Everything, Everything we have something that sticks to the rules of narrative. When you’re doing so you can use them brilliantly, of course, but ultimately I don’t think that this book does.
The big twist of Everything, Everything is that Maddy doesn’t actually have the illness (SCID) that keeps her confined to her house. It turns out it was a lie concocted by her mother to keep her home and keep her safe, following the death of Maddy’s father and brother, as after these deaths Maddy got sick and Maddy’s mother was terrified.
Putting it simply, there are two problems with this twist. One, I think, is a much bigger problem than the other.
1. How does that even make any sense, though?
Okay, so the first thing that we have to keep in mind is that Maddy’s mother is a medical professional, which we’re to assume if how she was able to make up the story of Maddy having SCID and maintain it for so many years. This is the only way we can be sold even a little bit on the twist, because if she was a random woman then obviously there’s no way in hell this would ever work. Even Maddy’s nurse admits to suspecting that Maddy wasn’t sick, which we assume is why she was willing to let Olly in the house.
The problem is that this only goes so far. Yes, Maddy’s mother is a doctor, but Maddy also finds many articles about SCID and the like in her mother’s possession, so how much about SCID did she know? Not enough to diagnose, probably, and even if she did Maddy is still family. Ethics and shit are an issue. Plus, SCID is rare and a big fucking deal. You’d need a hell of a lot more than the word of a worried mother to secure a diagnosis like SCID.
My mother knows a hell of a lot about the area pertinent to my lovely brain (as in, autism and that) and so she could pretty much tell I was autistic. However, we did still actually have to find someone qualified to diagnose me as autistic to, you know, actually diagnose me. That’s how that works, folks.
That’s just the tip of that iceberg, too. I don’t want to analyse the probably definite underlying mental illness that Maddy’s mother probably definitely has (and the debate about whether or not she’s demonised for it) today.
Now, we obsessive people of the internet like to pick apart things that don’t make sense and why they don’t make sense, but ultimately I think that, compared to the second issue with this twist I’m going to discuss, this one is minor. And let’s get into why.
2. Life has to make narrative sense (in, you know, a narrative)
First of all, let me talk about why the first problem with the twist is less of a problem than the second. See, humans are essentially designed to create and understand narrative. We love a story. So, we’re forgiving to overlook certain things if the story is good enough.
If you’d like an example of this, take a look at Fight Club. If you actually take a step back to think about the mechanics of the twist, it’s kind of a “Wait, what the fuck?” sort of deal. But people love that story and they love what that twist added to that story. So, we let the small details slide like we let Batman slide out of his party to leave a bunch of people to die. The details of a narrative are so important that shows like The Good Place exploit our willingness to overlook small inconsistencies.
Life is really just a bunch of shit that happens and a lot of the time people’s choices don’t make any sense. It’s only when we look back on our lives that we make connections like, “And if I’d just bent down to tie my shoe, we’d never have met,” because that’s how our brains work. So, that’s why narrative has to work the way that it does. That’s how it makes connections.
Everything, Everything is a romance. You can see this in of the motivations of our protagonist, Maddy. Maddy wants to be with Olly; that is her goal. In that context, the disease keeping her in the house isn’t the main focus of the plot. Rather, it’s the primary obstacle keeping her from her goal, functionally making her mother an antagonist as she’s preventing Maddy from reaching her goal of being with Olly.
The twist in Everything, Everything does work on face value because it changes the way we look at all the events have happened before like a good twist is supposed to. But it changes them well only in the context of a different story. In the context of this story, upon revealing that Maddy isn’t actually sick all you’ve done is afforded her the ability to go outside. This takes away the biggest obstacle facing Maddy in the narrative. She can now go and be with her love interest. There is absolutely nothing stopping her.
See, for a story to be compelling the protagonist has to overcome the obstacles facing them on their own. Even in Fight Club this is (nonsensically) the case. Once Maddy can go outside, through no action of Maddy’s the biggest obstacle to her happiness is gone. And, yes, she does disobey her mother and head off to Hawaii, but that isn’t the ultimate rise in action of the story. That isn’t the “final battle.” To tie up loose ends, the plot twist essentially writes them away.
But hey, that’s just my piece. And after writing that, I do think that another reading of the book may result in me lowering my rating, and writing a review after the revisit, but I’ll do that only if you guys want me to. So let me know if that’s the case! In the meantime, let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts on this book (or the movie based on it, which I never actually saw so I’d love to hear about it) and I’ll be off writing my story for Camp NaNoWriMo.
If you’re interested in Everything, Everything and making your own conclusions about it, you can buy it on Amazon! Have at it!
See you guys soon!
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After some downtime, the Sunday Review is back with a vengeance! A … fairly gentle vengeance, but a vengeance. Today, we’ll be taking a look at something which is fairly nostalgic for me, and which holds a lot of weight as something to endlessly rant about. Yes, we’ll be looking at that classic in the realm of hatedom: Christopher Paolini’s Eragon.
It’s got swords. It’s got sorcery. It’s got elves and orc—um, I mean Urgals. This book, while widely loved by teenage boys and me before I became unbearably sarcastic, has become one of the internet’s biggest pet peeves. So what better book to welcome back the Sunday Review? Let’s take a look at this much-hated classic, and see if it deserves its reputation!
Today I was talking to a friend, and I remembered this book that I gave to her once. I also remembered that I wrote a review of that book, and that that review no longer exists. So here’s another one!
Author: Emma Pass
Published: Corgi Children’s Books, 2013
My Rating: ★★
The year is 2113. In Jenna Strong’s world, ACID—the most brutal controlling police force in history—rule supreme. No throwaway comment or whispered dissent goes unnoticed—or unpunished. And it was ACID agents who locked Jenna away for life, for a horrendous crime she struggles to remember. But Jenna’s violent prison time has taught her how to survive by any means necessary.
When a mysterious rebel group breaks her out, she must use her strength, speed, and skill to stay one step ahead of ACID, and try to uncover the truth about what really happened on that terrible night two years ago. They have taken her life, her freedom, and her true memories away from her. How can she reclaim anything when she doesn’t know who to trust?
Title: Goblin Fruit
Series: Gobbled, #1
Author: S.E. Burr
Published: December 2012
My Rating: ★★★★
You think a fairy tale is just a story.
What if it hides a message?
All Clarity’s mom ever gave her is the fairy tale storybook, Goblin Market.
Her whole life, Clarity has helped care for her mother, a mindless, shuffling shell of a person.
At sixteen, Clarity meets Audrey, a girl filled with grief and guilt over her brother who has been struck with the same affliction.
With nothing but a cryptic clue from Goblin Market, Clarity and Audrey risk their lives to cure the people they love.
I think it’s a sure sign of how cynical I’ve been feeling recently that I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. When I picked it up I knew absolutely nothing about it and, I guess because of the number of lower ratings I’ve given recently, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it.
But I really did.
Goblin Fruit tells the story of Clarity and Audrey, whose mother and brother respectively have entered a catatonic state of living death due to taking a drug called goblin fruit. This drug is extremely dangerous due to having this effect, and as such there are strict controls around it. They go so far as to wear gloves at all times and holding hands has become taboo—see, if you’ve taken the drug the chemical leaks through your hands, and anyone who’s exposed gets cravings from the drug. Obviously, the girls want to save their loved ones, but it doesn’t look like there’s a way.
And, okay, I really enjoyed this book. It’s just so different from the young adult books that I’ve been reading, especially in the fantasy and supernatural genre, and it was wonderful. A nice change. I don’t even expect my usual brand of sarcasm to drip much into this review because I just … I liked this book, okay?
Goblin Fruit was, for me, a welcome difference in so many ways from the other young adult books I’ve been reading. First off, there’s a trio of characters at the forefront—Clarity, Audrey, and Todd—and at no point does it get overly romancey. And, yay, no love triangle. The book tells you that it’s about goblin fruit, and it’s about goblin fruit. I shouldn’t have to have an “Oh thank god” reaction to that, but that’s what young adult books have driven me to.
This book also has a number of POC on the main cast. Todd and Audrey both have Hispanic parents, which doesn’t just come across as something that’s said and only said like in some other books that I’ve read.
And I have to say, one thing that I really liked was that the supernatural elements of this book were more subdued. They were present, but this was still very much the real world, and it created this cool atmosphere where the fantasy stuff was there, but threatening because the girls couldn’t do anything about it. And that somehow made the threat seem more real.
I also loved the friendship between Clarity and Audrey. Its development was perfect and touching. Audrey and Todd, too, had a really interesting relationship.
I will say that I noticed a couple of proofing errors—which does happen in indie books, and none of them were too drastic. And also the POV switches weren’t to my taste, but then that might just be a personal preference thing. I don’t know.
I’m not going to drivel on about this book, even though I could, but needless to say, I really enjoyed it. And if you need a short young adult book (I read this in a day, which is rare for me) or something with light supernatural elements. Or, you know, a book that doesn’t have a love triangle in it, then I definitely recommend Goblin Fruit to you guys. As usual, I’ve provided an affiliate link to its Amazon page. (It is I, the sellout.)
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