Thoughts at a glance: ***** (It was amazing!)
Madeline Whittier has never left her house. She has an illness that renders her, well, allergic to everything, so she can't go outside, the (MANY) books she reads have to arrive shrink-wrapped, and contact with anyone other than her mother and her nurse Carla has to be carefully monitored.
Things change when Oliver's family moves in next door. Maddy, wearing her white clothes, standing in her white bedroom, and feeling very aware of her unwell body, sees strong, muscular Olly dressed all in black, performing parkour stunts, and climbing onto the roof. They are instantly drawn to each other, and soon, they are emailing/messaging and pantomiming at each other through windows. Before long, it starts to feel like not enough for Maddy.
Their romance, and Maddy's subsequent thirst for freedom, unfolds through Maddy's thoughtful and poetic reflections, emails, chat logs, illustrations, and literary commentaries. The story is at times cute, at times hilarious, and at times fraught with drama, but overall, I loved the narrative style and found it refreshing more than gimmicky.
Her illness is a major obstacle not just in their relationship but in her life, and thus, I spent a good portion of the book hoping that Yoon wasn't going to TFIOS me. (You know what I mean.) Spoiler alert: everyone lives in this book. Phew. It's a good thing, because I was up until 2am reading this one all in one sitting, and I didn't want to have to explain any red, puffy eyes at work.
The diversity in this book is lovely - Maddy is half-black, half-Japanese, her mother is Japanese, her nurse is Mexican, and Olly/his family are white. Olly's friend (whom we meet later in the book) is black, lives in Hawaii, and is gay. And it was significant, but also not significant, if that makes sense - everyone's ethnicity was specifically mentioned so that we could picture them accordingly, but then it didn't become the most important thing about them. And that's kinda nice.
The major plot twist was a little bit deus ex machina for me, but I was rooting for Maddy and Olly so hard that I didn't mind so much. And I liked that in a way, they kind of both save each other - Olly is Maddy's first everything and he sparks her wish for more in life, and she is a haven from his own family troubles, and they're just really, really cute. I loved this book so much, and I can't wait to read more from this author in the years to come.