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  • Writer's pictureBrandi Prater

Basically, I'm Allergic To The World

Updated: Oct 23, 2022


Yoon, N. (2017, March 7). Everything, Everything (Reprint). Ember. ISBN 978-0553496673


What if you couldn’t touch anything in the outside world? Never breathe in the fresh air, feel the sun warm your face...or kiss the boy next door. Maddy is a teenage girl who’s literally allergic to everything in the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. Olly, the boy next door, becomes the greatest risk she’s ever taken.


The story begins with Maddy sitting in her white room alluding to her germ-free, sterile existence. She’s describing all the books she reads and how she obsessively labels her books with “Property of Madeline Whittier” and offers rewards to whoever may find them. The rewards are opportunities to spend time with Maddy doing things she can only dream about. Maddy’s not even sure why she bothers fantasizing about these adventures because she only ever sees two people: her mother, and her nurse, Carla. Over the next several “chapters”, specifics of Maddy’s disease are revealed and we get a glimpse of what her secluded world looks like and how she manages to stay positive and keep things interesting. Maddy’s world gets turned on its head when Olly, a cute boy her age, moves into the house next door.

Written in brief narrative chapters, emails, chat transcripts, sketches, and other visuals, we get glimpses into this unconventional love story. The characters are likable, and you find yourself rooting for their romance despite the reality of Maddy’s illness. But that’s where the story begins to fall apart. As the story continues to develop, there are some major storylines that seem to get skimmed over and are extremely hard to ignore. For one, Olly’s father is an alcoholic who abuses his wife and children. Maddy takes potentially deadly risks for a crush that is developing purely from glimpses through windows and email conversations. Major Spoiler Alert: Maddy’s mom is essentially abusing her due to some serious mental health issues.

Now I must admit, I watched the movie halfway through reading the book and I have to say...mistakes were made. There were so many discrepancies between the two that I’m sure it skewed any enjoyment that may have remained despite the improbability of the story line. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Contemporary Realistic Fiction and I really thought I’d like this book. If you are willing to suspend disbelief, the relationship between the teens is compelling in the beginning. Although the story is unique enough to keep you engaged, it makes it difficult to emotionally connect with the characters due to major gaps in the storyline. The book is YA but would be better suited for 14+ as there are scenes of domestic violence, graphic descriptions of sex and foreplay, and minor swearing. It would be a good choice for readers looking for diverse characters.


Yoon’s debut novel adds a twist to the time-honored genre of a terminally ill teen seizing his or her final days: for Maddy—who is suffering from Severe Combined Immunodeficiency and who, “allergic to the world,” hasn’t left her house in seventeen years—it’s living to the fullest that would kill her. Maddy is resigned to her sequestered existence of online classes, voracious reading, and human contact with only her devoted mother and a sympathetic home nurse, until fellow teen Olly—isolated in his own way by an abusive father and frequent relocation—moves in next door. He and Maddy begin a secret friendship that blossoms into romance, then escalates into euphoria and then disaster when the couple runs away to Hawaii.

-Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2015)


  • YALSA Teens’ Top Ten Selection, 2016

  • YALSA Best Fiction Book, 2016

  • Booklist Quicks Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2016

  • Booklist Top 10 Quick Picks, 2016

  • Young Adults’ Choices, 2016


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Classroom Applications

Gaslighting in Everything, Everything

  • The term “gaslighting” refers to manipulation by psychological means in order to make a person question their own sanity. Develop a project or written paper examining how gaslighting might apply in Everything, Everything

Plot Holes

  • In Everything, Everything, there are several small (or large) plot holes that exist in the story. Develop a project that explores these plot holes and how they affect the story as a whole.

Film Adaptation

  • Everything, Everything was adapted to film in 2017. Allow students to see the film and complete a paper discussing the correlations and differences between the novel and the movie.

Medical Research

  • Complete a research project on the different medical conditions discussed and explored in the novel. Based on your research, how realistic is the author's depictions of these conditions?

Discussion Questions / Pre-Reading Questions / Mother-Daughter Themed Discussion Questions / Additional Activities

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