YA book lovers, your newest obsession is here.
Nicola Yoon's "Everything Everything," which was optioned for film before it hit shelves this week, is, as the title suggests, everything.
This book tells the story of Madeline, a teen who's spent her life as a prisoner of her own home and a disease that is said to make her allergic to pretty much the entire world outside. Thanks to a few fun board games with her doctor mom, a long-running love of literature, and a lot of imagination, Maddy's doing just fine. Until a cute, sulky boy moves in next door and has her yearning for the impossible, that is.
The story is a quick, delightful read that plays on multiple mediums throughout, and it features a line-up of diverse characters with intriguing sets of complications and interests.
MTV News did a Q&A with Nicola about her already-hit new book and what she thinks about the state of YA, as well as her thoughts on a potential "Everything Everything" movie and what she'll be owning us all with next.
In the book, you offer up a lot of mini-reviews from Madeline. Was that your way of introducing a reading list to young readers, by chance?
You know, those are books that affected me a lot when I was younger, but really it was more for Madeline too because it's her way of relating to the world. Everything she knows about the world, she learned from books. I was a huge reader when I was a kid, and I'm still a huge reader, so it was my favorite books. It was also just the characters that she would relate to, so she would be able to be a part of the world.
She didn't like "Lord of the Flies," so did you dislike that book?
The first time I read it, I really didn't like it at all. I really, really didn't like it. I've since come around, but I think I was probably too young when I first read it. But I like it now.
Do you think part of the reason she didn't like it was that she was jealous, maybe, that the characters had so much freedom to roam?
I think that's part of it, but I also think part of it is just like that it's so bleak, and in order to deal with her life, I think Maddy has made a conscious decision to just accept things and make the best of it. And "Lord of the Flies" has kind of a bleak outlook on human nature. So, I think part of it for her is just trying to hold onto a little bit of zen.
How did you research SCID, the disease that she's been dealing with?
I did a lot of research online, but in the book it's a form of SCID, so it's not so much a medical book. It's more about living and the sense of hardship, but I did do a lot of research, and I've gotten some letters from people with severe allergies, who've said that they thought the book was accurate, so that's really gratifying.
The games that Maddy and her mother play, were those games that you've played, or did you just kind of make them up?
My husband and I play Phonetic Scrabble a lot, actually, with a real Scrabble board. And he beats me every single time. I have never beaten him. But I always beat him at real Scrabble. So, he's never beaten me at real Scrabble, but I've never beaten him at Phonetic Scrabble. It's something we do because he can swear and be creative.
Speaking of your husband, he did some of the illustrations for this, right?
Yeah, he did all of the illustrations. That was really fun collaborating with him on it. He's such a great artist. It started -- I write from 4 to 6 a.m., and one morning I had this idea that I was going to draw because I feel like that's how Maddy would relate to the world because she's just stuck there. And it was 4 o'clock, and I had this idea -- so I wake my husband up, and I asked him to draw me the Hawaiian state trips, like humuhumunukunukuapua. And he was wonderful. He just got up and made some coffee, and gave me kiss and drew me a fish. It just sort of started all the other elements of the book. It was like once I put the fish in it, I was like maybe I'll do some other non-traditional things.
Do you think that the family dynamic here -- obviously, there's a major tragedy involved too -- but as far as the diversity, do you think that represents your family?
Yeah, I mean, part of it was that I knew when I wrote the book I wanted to -- my husband is Korean-American and I'm Jamaican-American, and we have this supercute little girl -- but I knew that I wanted her to be able to see herself in a book when she grew up. So, yeah, that was -- and she's just a girl, and this is her ethnicity. She's just a part of the world.
I know that you're a big proponent of YA diversity, and I think that your book certainly lends to that movement. How can other YA authors be more proactive towards that cause?
I think it's just writing about the world that we live in. We live in this wonderful, beautiful, diverse world. You can just look around at your surroundings. If you write the truth, it will be there. If you write about the people that you live with everyday. If you get to know people that are outside of your, not necessarily comfort zone, but just your own demographic, and write about them truthfully, then that will go a long way to combating the representation problem that I think we have.
I know you said that the books that you mentioned in the story were among your favorites, but are there any other authors that are really hitting in this movement?
Yeah, there are some really terrific books out this year. I feel "More Happy Than Not" by Adam Silviera is a great one, "Ember and Ashes" by Sabaa Tahir. "Tiny, Pretty Things." "Point" by Brandy Colbert. I feel there are a lot of books that have diverse characterizations that are being published right now -- really wonderful, amazing adventure stories and stories about ballet and, just great stories.
Is Olly based on anyone in your life?
That's a good question. A little bit my husband because he's supercute. But he wears all black, and he's sort of angsty, broody -- the boy I would always go to when I was 16, 17. A lot of stuff that's said are exact conversations I've had with my husband too, though.
If you had to choose to only go vacation in one spot, where would you go?
I love Hawaii, I really, really do. My husband and I had our honeymoon there, we took our daughter there. I was pregnant there. So, it's a place -- it's not super exotic, but we love it. For sentimental reasons, Maui is one of my favorite places.
How else can the YA diversity movement be helped?
I think just having the conversation is a great start. I also think it's not just having characters in books, but having a diverse representation along the whole chain -- more agents and editors and publishers. We've had such a wonderful reaction. So many people have taken a genuine interest in the movement and have been so supportive. Just getting it into the forefront of peoples' mind is just wonderful I think. Now that the book has been optioned for adaptation, all I can picture is this half-Japanese half-African-American person on the screen as the romantic heroine in the movie. That would be so awesome to see.
Do you have any actors or actresses in mind for these parts?
I can't even choose. I started looking, but I don't want to get ahead of myself and name anyone. Just the idea of the seeing that on the screen is -- that makes me pretty happy.
One of the things I was thinking about when reading this book was how it could be a movie property. I guess they would have to do something like -- I'm wondering how they could expose those thoughts and little asides that Maddy has? Do you have any picture of that, how her little reviews and drawings could work on-screen?
I don't know. I think it's really hard to do because I feel like it's such a book, you know? But I trust the folks at MGM that they know what they're doing. I sort of picture maybe the doodles being doodled as you watch it on the screen. I don't know. I'm good at writing books -- not movies. They'll figure it out.
What are you working on now?
I'm writing my second book. I just turned it into my editors. It's another Young Adult book. I can't say too much about it, but there's also love in there.
"Everything Everything" is on shelves now.