Madeline Whittier is 17 years old. She is allergic to everything. She has SCID – severe combined immunodeficiency. She lives her life confined to a specially adapted house. Maddy can never go outside. She cannot meet anybody. It could kill her. However, Maddy is also a curious and adventurous teenager, and her lack of choices frustrates her.
Then one day, a new family move next door. Olly, the boy, dresses in black and likes free running. They start to communicate with each other, first through their bedroom windows and then by email. A friendship begins. This friendship gradually grows into something else. But how can you love someone when you can’t even be in the same room as them and can never touch them?
Maddy wants to be with Olly, but how can she do this when she can’t see people or go outside? Maddy is willing to risk everything to experience life and love. For her you are not living at all when you are trapped inside a bubble.
This is an extraordinary novel about growing up, growing away and falling in love for the first time. The story brilliantly describes the awakening of first love and the changes that occur as a teenager moves from childhood into adulthood. In some respects, Maddy’s illness acts as a metaphor for the boundaries that must be broken down in order to reach maturity, and it cleverly documents the changing relationship between Maddy and her mother.
At the heart of the narrative is a clever secret designed to surprise the reader. This works incredibly well. Hints at this secret not only keep the reader engaged and involved but they also keep the reader guessing.
The narrative is constructed in a variety of ways, using first person narrative, emails, diary entries and other written media. It is an ingenious novel that is very well written and skilfully constructed, and it will appeal greatly to female teenage readers.