If there were ever the perfect time to head to the movies, it’s this weekend. Not only is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 currently dominating the box office (and for good reason), but your next favorite romantic book-turned-movie is tapped to hit the big screen on Friday, May 19. And that movie is… Everything, Everything.
The story, based on Nicola Yoon‘s YA novel of the same name, focuses on Madeline “Maddy” Whittier (Amandla Stenberg), a teen girl who lives a sheltered life because she’s allergic to, essentially, everything. Despite her inability to leave her home, the boy next door, Olly (Nick Robinson), befriends her, and the two begin to message each other over the Internet.
A lot of events come into play in the tale: Not only does Maddy suffer from severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), but abuse, smoking problems and deception are involved as well. Through it all, though, one thing remained: the love between the two teens. And, thankfully, we got the chance to talk to the film’s leading lady and man about ALL OF IT.
“I love the dreamlike quality to it and how whimsical and how it’s not really based in reality,” the 18-year-old Hunger Games alum said of the story during the Everything, Everything junket in NYC. “I also really like the characters because I don’t think you could to see the story very often with an interracial couple.”
And that’s very true — you don’t often see interracial relationships in YA movies. So, we asked the pair how important it was for them to show a relationship such as this. Needless to say, the two did NOT disappoint. “Very important,” the 22-year-old cutie from The 5th Wave exclaimed. “I think that was the point of the book. Nicola wrote the book for her daughter, who is biracial and isn’t always represented, so she wanted to make something for her and have her story be told. […] I think it wouldn’t be the same story if it wasn’t for that.”
“Yeah, I don’t think I would have done the film if it hadn’t been based on the book,” Amandla chimed in. “I wouldn’t even have been cast. […] But that was something that was really cool to me.”
“It was really special to see this black teen girl carry this [relationship] without it even being a thing,” she added.
Since deception, as we mentioned, was also part of the project, we asked the main pair about lying IRL. “I think probably the first big lie I told my parents was that I was going to sleep over a friend’s house,” Amandla admitted, “but I was actually going to a punk venue.”
Nick’s was along the same lines. “Biggest lie ever told my parents was probably a similar thing,” he said, “going to a going to a friend’s house and not doing that at all!”
Then, of course, there was the abuse aspect. “It’s dealing with really serious subject matter,” Nick explained, “so we tried to treat it with as much and give it as much respect as possible.”
“It was pretty heavy, heavy stuff,” he added. “No one should have to go through that.”
Everything, Everything hits theaters this Friday.
Everything, Everything, plus nine other awesome YA books that feature interracial couples:
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
A cult-classic set in the late-'80s, Eleanor & Park tells the story of two outcasts bound together by a friendship too good to be true and relationship they know will never last. This story deals with Eleanor's insecurities — her curly red hair, her imperfect body, etc. — as well as Park’s inherent struggle with his Korean heritage.
Over the course of their awkward, endearing friendship-turned-relationship, the boy helps the girl grow into a stronger version of herself, while the girl returns the favor by listening to his mix tapes, making him feel a little less invisible. Eleanor dresses wrong and Park feels wrong, but their differences collide in an all-consuming, volatile first love, toeing the line between finality and forever.
Photo: St. Martin's Griffin
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Madeline Whittier is half black, half Japanese, and 100 percent allergic to the world around her. But that doesn't stop her from setting her sights on Caucasian Olly, a parkour enthusiast and new neighbor who shows her that there is no shame in her "big and long and wavy hair." Maddy's SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency) is put on the back burner as the boy encourages her to break out of her literal bubble and live.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
Lara Jean's sixteenth year moves at the speed of light. Her older sister and best friend move to Scotland, leaving her to face the anonymous release of her secret love letters by herself. Without Margot to stand in as mom, Lara Jean must act as the matriarch of the house, preserving their Korean heritage, making sure kid-sister Kitty gets the puppy she’s been pining for and watching over a non-Korean father, who needs a little bit of help in the cooking department. And that’s just the half of it!
The girl also has to mend the heart of her crush, broken by her sister, while navigating a complicated relationship with Kavinsky, the most popular (and most attractive) guy in school. Turns out it isn't so easy when you're up against the typical cheerleader-type, but Lara Jean doesn't shy away from the presence of her culture or the fact that people don't expect a girl "like her" to be dating a guy like Kavinsky.
Photo: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
If you want a novel that goes against everything in the traditional YA grain, then Our Own Private Universe is for you. Aki Simon is 15, African-American, bisexual, and doesn't intend to waste time on a boring, lackluster life. She wants excitement, activity and to stop thinking about how boring her life is, which is why she takes off to Mexico with her youth group in search of an adventure.
Upon arrival, she meets Christa, who provides exactly the kind of spark Aki is looking for in her life. Christa is older, Mexican, more experienced, and openly into girls, three qualities Aki is totally unfamiliar with but knows will give her the wow-factor she's been craving. Filled with soul-searching, white lies, and personal growth, Aki experiences a summer of firsts that changes the YA literature game.
Photo: Harlequin Teen
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
In this raw, dramatic series, Simone Elkeles gives us a Romeo and Juliet-like tale of two lovers with the odds stacked against them. Brittany, a white, blonde cheerleader, screams 'perfect' to those looking in, despite her ongoing problems at home. She meets Alex, a Latino gang member who is dangerous in more than just the looks department and has his eye on her heart. The guy disrupts every part of Brittany's world, making her question her parents, friends, and role in society, and realize in the process that maybe it all needed to be flipped upside down. Their explosive, edgy romance confronts racial stereotypes while captivating readers until the very last barrier-breaking page.
Photo: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Biggest Flirts (The Superlatives) by Jennifer Echols
Being voted Biggest Flirt is exactly what Tia Cruz wanted, right? It fits right in with her senior-year plan, which involves little other than hanging out with her BFFs and flirting with cute boys. Too bad Will doesn't fit into that plan.
Tia falls for his Midwestern charm, but that's not enough for her to catch the commitment bug he is pushing for. But the strong-willed, Latina go-getter can't shy away from what she wants, even if means flipping her original plan upside down and giving into the hearty, emotion-driven feelings she's been avoiding all these years.
Photo: Simon Pulse
The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
This YA novel brings diversity in a number of ways. Mallory "Mouse" Dodge is a white girl who was adopted by loving, successful black parents who help her through the severe anxiety and fear of speaking instilled by her time in the foster system. On her first day of public school, she is faced with a fragment of her past in the shape of Rider Stark, the shadow-eyed, fiercely protective Latino boy who acts like a brother, but treats her like a girlfriend.
Rider turns Mallory into Mouse again and reignites feelings that only stem from familiarity. The two reunite and rebuild their past relationship, this time with a dark and desperate twist and a girlfriend who won't go down without a fight. But will the two find that their shared history has diverged into different backgrounds that threaten to tear them apart once more? You have to read to find out!
Photo: Harlequin Teen
Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood
Ivy has grown up with the expectation that, like all the other women in her family, she will live fast and die young. Unlike her grandfather, with whom she spends her summer before senior year, the girl views this as more of a curse than a blessing. Her displeasure is only exacerbated when her absent mom returns home with her two unknown younger sisters in tow.
Her only escape from familial pressures is the slow-building relationship she has with Connor, the mixed-race college student helping Ivy and her grandfather transcribe her great-grandmother's journals. Connor is full of knowledge spanning areas Caucasian Ivy has little experience in, but definitely wants to find out more about. This book also touches on various aspects of gender, sexuality, and body image, in addition to the string of feminist themes.
Photo: Sourcebooks Fire
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
Elyse d'Abreau isn't a mermaid, but everyone in Atargatis Cove treats her like one. After a boating accident that takes her voice and everything she knows about her life in Tobago with it. The girl moves to a small Oregon shore town and starts a life that isn't nearly as restricting as it seems, especially with playboy Christian, Oregon’s number 1 white fratboy-in-training, nudging her out of her land-locked comfort zone. Although the two get off to a rocky start, their mutual dislike soon transitions into a deep, sexy relationship that tackles misogyny, sexism, and cultural differences.
By bridging differences between Elyse's glamorous life in Tobago and the process of reinvention in a town that marks her as an outcast, this book provides a deeply satisfying dip into overcoming adversity in personal ways. Oh yeah, and it's a loose retelling of The Little Mermaid featuring a person of color — what’s not to love?
Photo: Simon Pulse
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
One day — that's all it takes for Tasha and Daniel to know something is going to happen between them, except neither of them have time for that. Tasha's priority is convincing the US Citizenship and Immigration Services not to send her family back to Jamaica, while Daniel preps for a med school interview to please his South Korean parents, even though the only thing on his mind is becoming a poet.
Through a game of questions that flirt the edges of what's socially acceptable to ask a stranger (even if you know you're going to fall in love with them), we learn about Tasha and Daniel in deep and personal ways and how despite the fact that we're all different, there's something so universal about coming of age.
Photo: Delacorte Press
Original reporting done by Lindsey Smith.