YA Diversity Book Club: Everything, Everything

YA Diversity Book Club
Welcome to the August edition of the YA Diversity Book Club, a monthly feature we created in partnership with three other book bloggers: Kristina at Gone Pecan, Lucy at The Reading Date, and Kristan at We Heart YA. This month we read “Everything. Everything” by Nicola Yoon — the story of Madeline, a bookish, beautiful girl who lives in the tightly controlled bubble of her home, because she’s literally allergic to everything. Everything changes when she spots a moving truck pull up, and the parkour-loving boy next door proves irresistibly cute.

Many, many thanks to Penguin Random House for sending us all review copies of the book!

Everything, Everything

 This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, 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.

One of the things I loved about “Everything, Everything” is that the character is half black, half Asian, a combination you rarely see in general but does exist. In fact, my friend Kim, who writes I’m Not the Nanny, is Vietnamese, and her husband is African American, and there’s this adorable Tumblr of “Blasian Babies.” Most of the time, hapa, or half-Asian, characters are portrayed as half-white, but it’s important for more multi-racial representation to exist in kid lit. This issue is important to me, because my husband is Asian, and I’m Latina, and it’s extremely rare for characters to ever be that mix. Now, I’m sure some of you may be thinking, well, I’m half-Irish and half-Greek, and I don’t see any characters with that particular makeup either… who cares? Well, it matters, because growing up without reading anyone who remotely approximates your cultural makeup can be difficult. In fact, I’m pretty sure if you Google the Latina and Asian you’ll find some NSFW results. So I’m happy to add Madeleine to the small but growing list of hapa characters in YA. Here are some others:

1. Park in “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell: I know he’s a bit controversial with the green eyes and the insecurity, but I think Park is awesome, and I love how his relationship with Eleanor helps him realize how great and attractive and loved he is.

2. Lara Jean in “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” & “P.S. I Love You” by Jenny Han: How I love Lara Jean and her sisters aka The Song Girls. It’s especially heart-warming that their white widower dad tries so hard to expose them to their Korean culture/side of the family, so they don’t lose touch with their mother’s heritage.

3. Jem in “Infernal Devices” by Cassandra Clare: Oh, Jem. It’s hard to write about him without wanting to cry. His relationship with Will is one of my favorite bromances in YA. Sigh.

4. Day in “Legend” by Marie Lu: A lot of folks are sort of vaguely Asian in this dystopian Chinese-run California, but I love how Lu plays with Day’s look to make him sort of Mongolian with blond hair and blue eyes. Lu based his features on a famous photo of a long-haired blond Mongolian boy with, yes, blue eyes.

5. Chen Yong in “Silver Phoenix” by Cindy Pon: I am always surprised at how few people have read this fantasy duology set in a kingdom like ancient China.Chen Yong is half foreigner, so he’s actually less desirable by the society’s standards, but Ai Ling grows to love him all the same.

6. Zen in “Bumped”/”Thumped” by Megan McCafferty: This is an older YA, and it’s possibly the only time I’ve read a character that like my kids, is half Asian, half Latino. His full name is Zen Chen-Chavez! He’s wicked smart and completely attractive, so of course I’m a fan.

Interested in “Everything, Everything”? Make sure to enter our book giveaway and read our Author Q&A with Nicola Yoon at Gone Pecan, The Reading Date’s feature “Everything to Read after Everything, Everything,” and We Heart YA’s #YADBC Chat about the book. Stay tuned in September when we read The Weight of Feathers” by Anna Marie McLemore.

This post fulfills our monthly participation in Reading Wishes & Rather Be Reading’s Dive Into Diversity Challenge.

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