I received this book from NetGalley. I’d seen a couple of reviews from my friends, and I thought I’d give it a go — the basic premise of the book is that Madeline is allergic to literally everything, and has been confined to the house since she was a baby, but then a boy moves in next door and things get dramatic.
Not gonna lie, half the reason I requested it is because the cover is GORGEOUS.
This is an engaging book. It has some interesting characters — Madeline and her health problems are only the beginning of it. Her nurse Carla has plenty of personality, as does Olly, her overly cute next door neighbour. There’s lots of good dialogue and plenty of funny moments.
It has a slightly unconventional structure. Which is fun. It uses diary entries and schedules and instant messages as well as the straightforward narrative, and that helped provide some variation and keep things interesting. Admittedly my eARC had some formatting issues that made these sections pretty hard to follow, so occasionally I found myself confused, but that isn’t the fault of the book.
BUT. And this is a big but. It just didn’t blow me away.
There’s a major plot twist at the end, and I guessed it. From pretty early on, actually. As in, only a couple of chapters in. This happens surprisingly often. I seem to have a knack for ruining books for myself by guessing what happens, so that I can no longer tell if an author is just being obvious or if it’s literally only my special skills. The way I know a plot twist is amazing is if it catches me by surprise, but alas, they’re few and far between.
So, I guessed it. HOWEVER, I’ve seen some reviews by my friends and they didn’t guess it, which means it’s probably not obvious and it’ll probably be fine for you guys. Yay.
The book seemed a little inconsistent, in terms of what was actually allowed for Maddy. Could she touch people? Yes sometimes, no other times. Her architecture teacher is fully decontaminated but isn’t allowed to touch her, while her nurse is, despite living elsewhere — I couldn’t see the difference there. The airlock on her house also seemed a bigger obstacle sometimes than other times.
Madeline has never experienced the outside world, but she’s not scared of it. Like, she runs away (sorry, spoiler there) and goes to Hawaii with Olly. I’ve been leaving the house pretty much daily since forever and I wouldn’t run away and go on holiday with a friend. Because that would be scary. I guess for her, it’s all scary, so it doesn’t really make a difference how far she’s going or whether planes are involved, but…
I dunno, I just thought she might be slightly more freaked out by the outside world, given that she’d never actually experienced it before. She watched a lot of films, but I don’t think that really prepares you for reality.
But the main reason this didn’t grab me would be because of the romance. I am not much of a fan of romance. (Had you noticed? Possibly?) And SO MUCH of this book relies on you enjoying the romance. It’s about how falling in love can change your life. It’s about how love is worth risking your life to leave the house. Like… yayyyyy. /sarcasm
I liked that these characters weren’t as young as they are in some books — I’m sick of reading about lovestruck 15-year-olds because I can’t take them seriously. 18 is significantly more reasonable. But I wish it could have been more a story of friendship. Instead it’s about kissing and eventually sex and that just felt like a let-down.
Some people might love that! But I didn’t.
It was engaging enough to keep me reading until the end, but not so amazing that I’ll be insisting all my friends and students (that is, those from the library where I work, I’m not a teacher) read it immediately.