Review: Every Little Thing in the World

A teenager. A pregnancy. A familiar story. NOT

When sixteen-year-old Sydney Biggs’s pregnancy test shows the tell tale plus sign, she confides in only her best friend Natalia, and Natalia promptly “borrows” her mother’s car so Sydney can confront the baby’s father. But after the car is reported stolen and police bring the girls home, their parents send them away to wilderness camp as punishment. With six weeks to spend in the wilds of Canada, time is ticking for Sydney, who isn’t sure what she wants to do about the pregnancy. As she befriends her fellow adventuremates and contends with Natalia’s adamant opinions on the choices available, Sydney realizes that making the right choice can mean very different things. –From Goodreads

Every Little Thing in the World is Nina de Gramont’s first work of YA fiction, though she has previously published an adult novel and a collection of short stories. This is a brave and daring book. In the years since Juno and The Secret Life of the American Teenager, teen pregnancy has become a less taboo subject of discussion, but there is still one word so commonly left out: abortion. When Sydney gets pregnant at sixteen, she knows she is not ready to be a mother, and she cannot fathom the idea of having a child out in the world living with anyone else. While Sydney has made stupid decisions (and knows it), she does not want herself or her baby to have to suffer for those choices for the rest of their lives. Without being moralistic, de Gramont portrays Sydney’s struggle with the decision she must make, flip-flopping between keeping or not keeping the baby. The book is very frank about all of the reasons behind each possible decision, including abortion.

One may not agree with Sydney’s behavior and choices, but I think most readers will still find this book extremely well-written and thought-provoking. I love a book that pushes me outside my comfort zone, and de Gramont succeeded at making me grapple with the serious issues that Sydney must face. In addition, she developed an ensemble of other characters who all have their own secrets, good and bad choices, and strong views about the world. Each of Sydney’s friends highlights some of the most important struggles of adolescence, altogether creating a beautiful and realistic portrayal of what it means to grow up and begin standing up for yourself.

Quotable Quotes from Every Little Thing in the World

  • “As I ran up the hill, my blood began pumping in a pure and liberating way. Even though it was impossible to the point of ridiculousness to think that I might actually be pregnant, this image appeared in my mind for one split second, of a little baby floating around on an umbilical cord, getting bounced and jostled because I was fleeing from half its DNA.”
  • “My mother wasn’t the worst in the world. I knew all about those, thanks to broadcast news. Every couple of years there would be a big story about a mother who’d snapped and done away with her kids. One time a mother pushed her car into a lake with two little toddlers locked inside. Another one shot three of her kids in the head, then claimed she’d been mugged by a black man wearing a ski mask. There was one mother who drowned six little kids in a bathtub, and all these women staged protests at her trial—as if being a mother was such a horrible and hair-raising job, who could blame someone for drowning her kids. Every so often this woman would get a new trial, and when she appeared on the TV screen—all beleaguered and bedraggled—my mother always said, ‘The poor thing,’ in this tone that made me surprised she ever paid for my swimming lessons.”
  • “It felt bizarre to consider the future of this dust speck as if it were an actual person. If I didn’t want it to be raised in a less-than-ideal environment, why did I feel fine about scraping it into medical waste?”
  • “Without makeup Natalia didn’t look less attractive, only younger and more vulnerable, like all her flaws could finally stop apologizing.”
  • “For a moment the world around us halted. Insects stopped buzzing. My mosquito bites stopped itching. None of us moved. We heard no loons, no frogs, no crickets, no sound. It seems strange to say it. But truthfully, in some weird, instinctive away, Mick’s using the N word shocked me much more than his confession of murder—maybe because I didn’t quite believe the latter. But I had never heard anyone say that word in real life. It was the biggest language taboo I knew, maybe the only one. The word echoed in the dark woods. It hung all around us, marking Mick—one of us only seconds ago—a strange and ominous other.”
  • “Why did everyone talk like desire and action were these two absolute companions? Didn’t people do things that went against what they wanted all the time? Like eating a doughnut when you wanted to lose five pounds.”
  • “It’s funny, how your relationship with your own looks changes when you go weeks without seeing yourself. None of us really knows what we look like, after all. In that nanosecond it takes for a mirror to give our faces back to us, our mind has already done all sorts of perverse rearranging.”
  • “And a feeling of peace and insight came over me, as if death were not something to fear but simply an answer to a question that had loomed over me since I first understood that I wouldn’t live forever. This, I thought. This is how it ends.”
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