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Maddy’s coming-of-age story begins with resignation to the fact that she is trapped by her autoimmune disease with no hope of escape. She accepts her health condition and feels fulfilled in her life of routine, supported by her mother and her nurse Carla. However, when new neighbors move in, Maddy has an internal struggle between accepting her life and challenging her fate of remaining trapped. Throughout the book, as Maddy goes through emotional ups and downs, she cycles between shutting herself in and putting herself out there, both literally and figuratively. Maddy’s uncertainty and curiosity early in the story—especially after Olly moves in next door—reflect her relative immaturity and youthfulness.
Maddy’s understanding of love is demonstrated through each of her relationships, as well as in her interpretation of how love has influenced her mother. At first, in Maddy’s interactions with her mother and Carla, love is demonstrated as obedience, respect, and admiration. As Maddy gets to know Olly, her view of love evolves into romantic love, intimacy, and vulnerability. Her assertion that love cannot kill her, but also that her love for Olly will end in disaster, reflects her youthful inability to sort out all of the complexities of such a complicated emotion.
The culmination of Maddy’s growth comes with the realization that her mother has made every decision that has negatively affected Maddy’s life because she once lost love. Maddy understands the devastation of lost love through her own experience with Olly, and with this understanding, she begins to see her mother’s perspective. Once Maddy sees how love can cloud people’s judgment and affect their mental health, she has the clarity to understand that her life is hers to live if she embraces love. As she grows and matures through her interactions with Olly, Maddy becomes more self-confident in her resolve and assertive in her decision-making.