Narrator: Bahni Turpin, Robbie Daymond
Published by Listening Library (Audio)
Published on 1 September 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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The Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller
If you love Eleanor and Park, Hazel and Augustus, and Mia and Adam, you’ll love the story of Maddy, a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world, and Olly, the boy who moves in next door . . . and becomes the greatest risk she’s ever taken. This innovative and heartfelt debut novel unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, illustrations, and more.
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He's tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.
From the Hardcover edition.
I remember the hype for this book when it was published several years ago. So many fellow book bloggers were excited that a book blogger was going to be the new YA star, a The Fault in Our Stars but with a minority lead. The hype was epic, but I try to avoid hype. Until the film was released… then the audiobook became available at my local library. And now, suddenly I’m interested.
I really enjoyed this book. I really liked Maddy’s smart, contemporary voice, although at first the audiobook narrator seemed really stiff, like she was reading from a script – which I KNOW they are obviously reading from a stupid script, but other audiobook narrators I’ve listened to have at least made it sound conversational and NOT like they were reading from a script. Thankfully after the first couple of hours the narrator really relaxed into the flow of the novel and that stilted script-reading ceased.
Mady was such a lovely character at first that I wondered if I was reading a Rapunzel-inspired story: a girl trapped by a loving, overprotective parent, content with her confinement but vaguely curious about the outside world, and maybe can only leave once a boy/prince is introduced into her life.
The boy/prince of darkness is Olly. I don’t know, have I read too many asshole romantic interests? Olly is so normal. He’s not a jerk or an asshole in the least. He’s never horrible to Maddy, never treats her poorly, and he respects her decisions and boundaries. Their romance is at once completely inevitable and instalove while also feeling really normal for two teenagers driven by hormones. Olly consumes Maddy’s thoughts, and she’s willing to risk certain things to be with him. He also seems to adore her. It’s cute and kind of refreshing. It even made sense to me, because there are so few people in Maddy’s life that of course she would head over heels for the cute boy next door, the first boy to show a romantic interest in her. It’s not like she’s dating around.
Also, the two-person narration in the audiobook is so adorable.
One of the things I didn’t like was Maddy just applying for a credit card and receiving it. I don’t know how it works in America, but in Australia you need savings and assets and proof that you can pay it back. How was Maddy going to pay for all of this stuff she was purchasing? She didn’t have a job or an allowance. Was she expecting her mother to pay it back? What happened when she defaulted and creditors came looking for her?
Another thing I didn’t like was that View Spoiler »when Maddy did escape, no one was even the slightest bit careful about her avoiding really common allergies like egg and latex and shellfish. Maybe Maddy already knew she wasn’t allergic to those things, but they didn’t even think about keeping her away from things that could trigger her. They didn’t outright say that it was a suicide run, but it certainly felt like it to me. They were so careless in the pursuit of Maddy ‘experiencing life’, and I found it problematic. She spends her entire life willingly locked away only to expose herself to a myriad of potential triggers, just because some cut boy smiles at her? The nurse in the book didn’t ask to look at the pills Maddy claims made her able to enter the wider world? Maddy’s illness is supposed to be life-threatening. Is the message here that it’s better to live an exciting life and die young than to live with a chronic disability? « Hide Spoiler
The problem with this kind of book is that you can predict the plot twist just from reading the blurb and honestly, I was kind of hoping that the plot twist was that there was no plot twist, and that’s precisely what kept me reading/listening. I like authors who can outwit me.
When I finished the book, I watched the film adaptation later that night. The adaptation was a-maz-ing. Instead of reading IM messages, Maddy and Olly had (metaphorical? Imaginative?) face-to-face conversations in Maddy’s architecture models. It also helped that I had seen the film poster before listening to the book, so I had pretty clear models for the two leads. There were a ton of other things I really enjoyed, to the point where I liked the film better than the book.