This book surprised me in so many ways. It was nothing like I thought it was going to be when I read the description. It was a really interesting read and also heart-warming.
The form of the book was different to anything that I have read. When I first saw the pictures/diagrams and other features in the book I was dubious and started to think perhaps this book was a bit young for me. I am so glad that I persevered as they were a fantastic technique. They gave insights into the character in a new and refreshing way, that would be hard to replicate through words and I loved them.
This book is about Madeline, who has an illness that prevents her from leaving the sterile environment of her home. The few guests she has have to be decontaminated in an airlock and the only view of life she has is in the books that she reads. But all that changes when a boy moves in next door. Now this is not your typical love story. I felt that the boy Olly in this book is just a tool to get Madeline to realise that the life she is living, is not in fact living. It was fantastic that the author showed how powerful love is, what a catalyst it is for emotion and how it has a ripple effect across your life. The author shows how love is a motivator and can change your entire perception of the world. It was a fantastic way to depict love and it was so sweet to experience Madeline's first love with her, it had my heart bursting as she woke up to the power of emotion.
The character development of Madeline was stunning considering the scene in which she is set in. Through clever uses of illustrations and other forms of narrative it was like looking directly into her brain. It was a mastery of showing not telling. I especially like the juxtaposition of her naivety and innocence at the hands of her sheltered life, crossed with her knowledge and intellect from all the extensive reading that she has done. She is a really interesting character and considering that for most of the book she is in the same house, we see so many aspects of her character through small things. Like her bravery (I really want to put in the example but I don't want to spoil it for anyone)
I really loved the mother-daughter relationship in the first half of the book. The mum could so easily have been the bad guy but we were actually given a well rounded view of the mum and her situation. I also enjoyed the way in which by viewing our world through Madeline, who has never experienced it, we got a glimpse of the every day things that we take for granted through the eyes of someone that has never experienced it, like an alien or a baby.
The only negatives I found in regards to this book was that I felt, parts of it were irrelevant, or maybe they were too philosophical and the meaning behind what was being said, was lost on me. I also felt that some parts of it were a bit rushed and more time could have been spent on certain scenes (I don't want to specify which as I don't want to ruin it). But these are really minor points.
A couple of quotes that I have to mention, that will stay with me for ever, from this book are; first of all:
'you're not living if you're not regretting' I am always saying to myself that I am only mid 20's, and I regret so many things and often think of this as a bad thing. So this really struck a chord with me, it is the strongest message that I will take from this book. I love it when a book changes the way that you look at life, and this book did that by the bucket load.
The other quote I loved was to do with reading. Madeline saying that she sometimes reads her books back to front:
'When you read this way, characters go from hope to despair, from self-knowledge to doubt. In love stories, couples start out as lovers and end as strangers. Coming-of-age books become stories of losing your way. Your favourite characters come back to life.'
This is such a fascinating way of looking at the strengths of books. Even when you read them the wrong way there is still a journey to be taken. It really stood out to me when I read it. I may even do this, read the book backwards.
I recommend this book to people that like a twist, the twist in this was fantastic and I'm ashamed I didn't see it coming. I recommend this book to people who wanted to appreciate the world more. I recommend people to give this book to those they feel take life for granted. I also recommend this book to people that want to read about interesting characters with a heart-warming and lovely story. I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading the next work of this author to discover more ways of looking at the world that I hadn't previously considered.