This book was enjoyable in the way that watching another rerun of your favorite sitcom is: it’s entertaining, but you never quite get the same enjoyment out of it as you used to. If you zone out and miss a few minutes, you don’t have to worry about rewinding since you already know what’s going to happen. It’s comfortable, and predictable, but still a fun ride. That’s what this book is to me: nothing extraordinary, a bit predictable, but overall a decently entertaining read.
Maddy lives with a rare disease: she has Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (also known colloquially know as bubble boy disease). She hasn’t left her house since she can remember: her whole life exists within its walls, the only people she sees are her mother and her nurse. Everything changes when new neighbors move next door and the she and the boy next door take a mutual interest in each other. Olly is everything she’s not: free, but also trapped by his toxic relationship with his father. The two start by connecting over IM and slowly start to meet in secret. Maddy eventually decides that life is worth the risk and runs away with Olly. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but suffice to say her world is fundamentally shattered.
With a plot this promising, I was really let down by how, frankly, generic the plot was. I’m not saying this book should have been a thriller, but it should have been far more interesting than it turned out to be. Maddy leaving the house was as predictable, but still entertaining. It was the kind of plot that you could see coming if you’ve ever watched more than two episodes of Grey’s Anatomy before. That’s not to say it wasn’t a decently fun read, it was just more of a ‘park your brain at the door and overthink it’ kind of book than I was expecting.
What really drew me to this book was the plot. It’s a fresh take on the overdone YA medical rom-com. A girl who is allergic to everything falls for a boy who who craves freedom above anything else. Maddy is an alright character. She’s accepted her world recently (there are brief mentions of past depression) and known that she is being kept in her containment for her own safety. In fact, her arguably biggest trait is her resignation that her world is small and she will likely die without experiencing all life has to offer. Outside of this biggest trait, we don’t really get to know Maddy much deeper than that, which is a shame given the depth of character someone in this situation could have been given. We don’t learn a lot about Olly, but presumably neither does Maddy. He is almost entirely defined by his relationship with his father. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it would have been nice to have more definition about him as an individual. Together, the two did not have much in the way of chemistry, to boot.
My largest issue with this book is how the characters handle the twist at the end. Maddy effectively accepts the evil her mother has done to her, in a teenage angst kind of way. Carla didn’t even think to call Child Protective Services, she instead pushed Maddy to accept what had happened. I found that to be incredibly toxic and wildly unbelievable for a supposed medical professional. Maddy’s mother on the other hand had seemingly zero consequences for her actions. As a doctor, she should have at least lost her license, and more likely faced prison time.
So, would I recommend this book? If you can get it as a loan from a friend or as a library book, yes. Otherwise, I would hold out until you spot it at a used bookstore before you pick it up. It doesn’t have much in the way of re-readability, any effect it does have would likely be lost upon further reading. I’d give this a solid 3/5. It’s fun, quick read with little in the way of twists and turns.