Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

Watching Life from Above

Architecture, Maddy’s favorite subject, is one way in which she looks at her life from above, observing the miniature worlds she creates as an outsider. Through reading and re-reading books, she is also looking at the situation as a spectator from above, gathering different meanings from the stories every time she views them from a different perspective.  Maddy spends a lot of time making observations through her bedroom window. Not only does she watch from above to gather intelligence on Olly’s family, but she also communicates with Olly from the window, watching him in his house next door.

Olly’s practice of parkour physically elevates him in any situation where he feels overwhelmed or anxious. When he and Maddy are preparing to run away, he mentions that no one ever looks up, and this shows us that he uses his climbing skills to hide from people or situations, while still being able to see what happens. The universe sculpture that Olly builds on his rooftop sanctuary, another place where Olly watches life from above, is not unlike Maddy’s dioramas, but it allows Olly to contemplate the interconnectedness of the planets and how every moment can influence the next.

Color and Colorlessness

The beginning of the story is set in a colorless room, full of colorless furniture, and sterile books. Maddy only wears white shirts and white shoes. In contrast, Olly wears all black, which is a metaphor for Maddy being clean and innocent, while Olly is mysterious and possibly damaged. During their first meeting, when Maddy is first experiencing a taste of life outside of her bubble, color starts to seep in. The sunroom has artificial plants and flowers, and Olly is described as being tanned golden brown with ocean blue eyes. Following the visits with Olly, Maddy updates her wardrobe to include brightly colored shirts and shoes.

When Maddy and Olly run away and are free of entrapment from their respective lives, the things that Maddy describes are vibrant, Carla’s house, the clothing in the gift shop, her swimsuit, and the coral reef. Finally, as Maddy gains her independence and comes to terms with the truth about her life, she paints each wall in her room a different color. The use of color throughout the story demonstrates the evolution of Maddy’s existence from monochrome to full color.

Maddy’s Diary Notes

Maddy documents her thoughts and observations in notes and drawings. She uses illustrations, charts, and graphs to keep track of her research and notes on Olly and his family, as well as feelings she has and plans she is making. The use of diary notes throughout the story reminds us that Maddy always has her personal data charted every two hours. After Maddy learns the truth about her medical condition, there are no more diary notes, charts, or graphs in the story because Maddy has released her past to live a new life.