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Quarantine Life Lessons From Nicola Yoon’s ‘Everything, Everything’

Quarantine Life Lessons From Nicola Yoon’s ‘Everything, Everything’

With most of the U.S. population under some type of stay-at-home measure, it may feel like we’re Madeline Whittier from Nicola Yoon’s 2015 blockbuster young adult novel Everything, Everything. The 17-year-old character stays home her entire life after her doctor mother diagnosed her with severe combined immunodeficiency, meaning she’s allergic to pretty much everything.

Maddy’s illness keeps her indoors all day every day. Her mother takes every precaution to make sure Maddy’s bubble stays clean, with the assistance of Maddy’s home nurse Carla. But once Maddy lays eyes on her new neighbor Olly outside her bedroom window, she questions the lifestyle her mother put her in after her father and younger brother died years before.

Since Maddy stayed inside for 17 years, she has moments in the book that reflect on what many may be experiencing now amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

KEEP THE CONSTANT ONLINE INTERACTION

At the start of the chapter “Secrets,” Maddy expresses how her online communication is reducing her sleep: “My constant IMing with Olly is catching up with me. I fall asleep during not one but two movie nights with my mom. She begins worrying that something’s wrong, that my immune system is compromised somehow.”

As Maddy and Olly mostly depend on online interaction, they exhibit the qualities many people are feeling now with using social media like Instagram Live and videoconferencing tools like Zoom to stay in touch because they can’t see each other in person. Authors are using IG Live to read their works, give writing lessons, and interview each other. Book clubs have found refuge with Zoom to keep their book selections on schedule and continue or start face-to-face meetings.

MAKE FANCY HOME-COOKED DINNERS

The “Menteuse” chapter describes the dinner traditions between Maddy and Pauline, which sometimes include Carla. “Everything at Friday Night Dinner is French. The napkins are white cloth embroidered with fleur-de-lis at the edges. The cutlery is antique French and ornate. We even have miniature silver la tour Eiffel salt and pepper shakers.”

She goes on about how Pauline likes to make cassoulet, “a French stew with chicken, sausage, duck, and white beans.” Except their cassoulet only contains the white beans because of Maddy’s allergies.

One of the conversations that keeps coming up online during the coronavirus isolation is people are either learning to cook or taking pleasure in cooking their own meals. To dress up dinner night, incorporate a theme to keep spirits high at least once a week for yourself or your family.

EXAMINE STRANGE DREAMS

In “My White Balloon,” Maddy describes a dream she had about the house breathing in line with her. On an inhale, walls collapse, but on an exhale, they expand.

According to the World Economic Forum, a sleep expert says the reportedly high rate of vivid dreams people are having during the coronavirus lockdown may be due to information and emotional overload. Maddy is having similar dreams early on in the book when she first sees Olly, which revs her up to find out more about him and how to communicate with him.

MOVE THROUGH THE BOOKSHELF

In “Madam, I’m Adam,” Maddy tells us she returns to a lot of her favorite books: “Sometimes I reread my favorite books from back to front. I start with the last chapter and read backward until I get to the beginning. When you read this way, characters go from hope to despair, from self-knowledge to doubt.”

If you have an obsession to outpace your book consumption with buying more books before finishing most of the ones already on your shelf, then this may be the perfect time to make a dent in your home readership. With physical libraries closed, it makes us value the books we own and revisit the ones we love. More people, not really bibliophiles, have done Marie Kondo makeovers on their bookshelves, so bulking up a skimpy bookshelf can still be done with supporting independent bookstores and checking out library e-books through a mobile device.

Everything, Everything was also made into a motion picture in 2017, starring Amandla Stenberg, Anika Noni Rose, and Nick Robinson.

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