- Page Count: 306
- Release Date: September 1, 2015
- My Rating: 1 star
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.
MINOR SPOILERS BTW.
I was super excited when I read the description and heard the hype, but this story ended up being one of the worst things I’ve ever read. I’m in a very similar “bubble girl” situation as the main character, who has to stay in her house because going outside would kill her. But, (view spoiler) The cop-out ending combined with the tagline of “the greatest risk is not taking one” felt like such a dismissal or slap in the face.
For those of us who are in her situation & allergic to the world at large, the greatest risk is taking one, IS in every single “ordinary” thing like breathing or eating. I get that the poor depiction of the illness ties into the eventual plot twist, but I wish that the book description and story didn’t revolve so heavily around it then. How is exploiting a serious health condition for the sake of some poorly developed YA romance remotely ok?! Market this book as Munchausen by proxy syndrome then.
I’m aware that the condition was not intended to be portrayed correctly in this book, but the author still trivialized the whole situation to seem like some fear-driven hypochondriac thing (so just let me rant for a second). The lack of authenticity in the girl’s daily life while she believed she was sick was just insulting… she was able to eat countless foods. And I don’t care how great the air lock is on the door: if her mom goes in and out of the house in the same clothing, that defeats the entire purpose. My poor parents spend at least 15 minutes daily changing their clothes and scrubbing down.
I know this ignorance is probably meant to be a reflection that the girl is actually fine instead of a matter of the author not caring enough to do basic research… but it’s still a weak plot. Because how is the mother a doctor if she doesn’t know something so basic?! This just felt like flagrantly irresponsible rep in the end with the way the book was marketed. It exploits the name of a real condition while portraying something entirely made up for the sake of a cheap plot twist.
Yes, I do understand that the illness was not the point of the story, but that’s kind of what’s even more frustrating. People in my situation are largely cast aside by the medical system & society at large and left without a voice. That feeling like nobody cares and we don’t matter is just reinforced here.
I’m getting a lot of messages saying that this story wasn’t about her illness so that poor depiction shouldn’t matter because it was about her romance or self-discovery or whatever. If you replace the word “illness” in your argument with “race,” “sexuality,” “weight,” or literally anything else, then those same people would be throwing a fit about bad rep as well. This book and the mindset it encourages are problematic because by supporting it and excusing such a central part of the story, you’re saying who cares about that illness. And that’s what I’m hearing from readers who are championing this story as well… “the illness is just something for her character to get past, not the actual story. It doesn’t matter if it’s realistic.” I’m not sure if I can adequately explain how it feels to think that your situation is actually visible for the first time, but then realize halfway through the book that others see you as more like some kind of freak show that’s a good plot device for a character to overcome so then she can actually start to live.
The end message of the story is that your life is worth risking for the sake of being “normal” and the disability is something to wish away. It also implies that someone like me is not really living.
“Everything’s a risk. Not doing anything’s a risk. It’s up to you.
That is such a completely privileged stance that it’s beyond infuriating. A lot of people wish they had that choice. Trust me, I’m not sitting in my house for years on end because I lack initiative. I have worked SO hard to create a meaningful life without ever leaving this same small room for years or seeing another human besides my parents or sister. Books like this (or Me Before You) used to make me question if my life was less valid or meaningful but now I’m just over this crap.
I’m definitely not judging anyone who chooses to read this book and enjoy it!! This is just my own personal reaction to the story. Please don’t tell me to try reading the story again with a different mindset so I can learn to like it. I don’t. We can have different opinions.
The diversity aspect is awesome, but that doesn’t really change the ableism. So here are a few other books coming out this year I already read & loved that have diverse characters:
– When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
– Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
– That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim
– A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
– The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig
– Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik
– The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
– The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
– Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali