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Maddy wakes up shivering. Her head and her whole body ache. The bedsheets are drenched with sweat. When Olly touches her, he says she is burning up. He phones for an ambulance, then calls Maddy’s mother to tell her of the emergency. Maddy’s heart stops. Then it starts again.
A Maui Memorial Discharge Form records that Madeline Whittier, age 18, “left against advice.”
Maddy vaguely remembers the ambulance trip, adrenaline shots to restart her heart, a hospital stay, and an airplane flight. She is going home.
Maddy’s mother hovers by Maddy’s bed. “You’re going to be OK,” the mother says, but she also asks, “How could you do this?” Seeing how frightened and exhausted her mother is, Maddy regrets going away with Olly. Love is a terrible thing, and she wants nothing to do with it.
Maddy and Olly IM. He is concerned and attentive and wants to resume the relationship. She does not want to go back to the way things were before. She tells Olly that she lied about the pills. She does not want to be in touch anymore. She logs out.
The lesson of Invisible Man is that you don’t exist if no one can see you.
Maddy dreams of a field of blood-red poppies, with an army of Ollies marching toward her in gas masks. Her time with Olly was wonderful, but she has to let him go, she thinks. She knows her heart, but her heart has changed. The places in it all have new names.
The Land of Broken Dreams is heart-shaped.
The message of The Stranger, Waiting for Godot, and Nausea is that everything is nothing.
Olly has sent Maddy dozens of emails in the past few hours. She deletes them all, unread.
Maddy gains strength and is able to resume her schoolwork. She is concerned for her mother, who is visibly losing weight. Maddy participates in mother-daughter nights and pretends to enjoy them. In reality, she enjoys nothing. She continues deleting Olly’s emails, until they stop coming. Then one night, Maddy’s mother announces that Carla will be coming back. “You’ve learned your lesson the hard way,” she says.
When Carla returns and hugs Maddy, Maddy dissolves into tears. She feels terrible over what she did to her mother, she says. She does not want to talk about Olly, however. She is afraid that if her heart recovers from the hurt, she will use her heart again in the future. She is back to her pre-Olly, palindrome-like life. One day, a moving van arrives next door. Olly, Karla, and their mother hurriedly move belongings out of the house while Olly’s father is away. Olly waves to Maddy. She wishes she could undo the last few months of knowing him. She should have stayed in her white room, reading her brand-new books.
Olly’s father, now living alone, seemingly goes to work already drunk, every day.
A month later, Olly’s father moves out, too. Maddy recovers Olly’s emails from the trash folder. She laughs over his limericks. He finally persuaded his mother to leave his father, he writes. If she stayed, Olly told her, he would leave. He also told her about Maddy and how sick she was, and how she had risked everything in order to live.
“five syllables here, and now here are seven more. i love you maddy.”
Not only the future, but even the past is unpredictable, and subject to change by what happens in the present.
Maddy receives an email from Dr. Melissa Francis, who treated Maddy at the Maui hospital. Dr. Francis believes that Maddy does not have SCID and that she contracted a viral infection in her heart muscle, possibly because her immune system has spent too much time isolated from germs. Dr. Francis urges Maddy to get other opinions about the SCID diagnosis, from physicians outside her family.
Maddy thinks there must be some mistake, but she prints out the email and the attached test results. She spends some time online trying to understand what the results mean. Then she brings everything to her mother. Her mother assures her that the SCID is real, but it is a rare condition that someone like Dr. Francis might not understand. Maddy believes her mother and is relieved, until her mother says, “I had to protect you,” not once but twice. Maddy grows quiet and asks for the printouts back. She has started to doubt whether being under her mother’s care is the best thing for her.
A suspicion is the truth you can’t and won’t believe.
When Maddy shares the email and test results with Carla, Carla’s takes them seriously. “We have to find out,” she says. “Give me a day.” Carla has sometimes suspected that losing Maddy’s father and brother caused Maddy’s mother to become “not quite right.” Maddy feels nauseous and strangely light. In her mind, her illness is part of who she is. Still, she wants to know the truth.
Maddy’s escape and the adventures that ensue mature her. She transitions from being a naïve recluse to an empathic, selfless woman. When Maddy’s reckless behavior catches up with her and she is convinced she is dying, the first thing she tells Olly is that she is sorry. Maddy feels responsible for Olly falling in love with her and for leaving him alone again with his family. Before she considers how her mother will be impacted by another loss, she thinks about Olly and his family, which illustrates the depth of her love for him and her altruistic mindset regarding how her actions have impacted him.
When Maddy’s mother checks Maddy out of the hospital against medical advice, the act is surprising enough to suggest an ulterior motive. Maddy’s betrayal of her mother’s trust results in discipline and, in protecting her from anything that may harm her and take her away again, a form of punishment. Once Maddy revives from the sedation administered by her mother, her mother asked how she could have done this to her, which highlights her mother’s self-centeredness.
Maddy equates her guilt to the feeling of drowning in the ocean, which contrasts with the sense of the ocean as a site of wonder and awe she had in Hawaii. In a moment of despair, Maddy rationalizes that the love her mother feels for her must be so deep that she cannot ever risk losing that love. Maddy’s love for Olly competes with that of her mother, so Maddy decides to forego love completely. Her mother has successfully manipulated Maddy into blocking out the outside world in favor of existing in the relative safety of her bubble.
Even in the throes of depression, Maddy maintains a resolve to shun Olly’s love and focus her attention on her mother. Maddy stops opening the blinds, covering the glass through which she has watched the outside world, thus heightening the symbolism of her isolation. Not only is she trapped behind glass, but in her new existence, she cannot even see through it. Maddy no longer cares about living and chooses only to be alive solely for her mother’s benefit. Maddy’s mother allows Carla to come back to work with Maddy, but manipulatively reintroduces the element of guilt when she tells Maddy that she has learned her lesson. That she tells Maddy she had to experience the lesson for herself is ironic considering Maddy would never have experienced anything if she had not broken all the rules set by her mother and rebelled completely. The form of control she exerts makes Maddy feel like her mother is empathetic to her situation.
After Olly’s and Maddy’s paths converge, they now see their tracks diverge. Maddy accepts living as her mother wishes, while Olly has broken the cycle of living for his father. Maddy reverts to being locked up and trapped in her existence, while Olly uses the experience to spur his mother and sister to change their predicaments and escape the life of conflict and violence that they are trapped in.
The shocking revelations that unfold in Chapters 112–116, however, explode Maddy’s whole sense of her world and her identity. Faced with the possibility that she has never truly been ill, Maddy questions everything her mother has ever told her. Maddy is now determined to find out the truth about her illness and the relationship of dependency that her mother has forced upon her. Maddy’s mother has prevented Maddy from leaving her by denying Maddy the opportunity to live life to the fullest. The reader now begins to see an even stronger parallel between Maddy and Olly’s experiences: Both Maddy’s mother and Olly’s father have isolated them physically and emotionally. Both parents’ actions are motivated by selfishness and desperation. In her use of deceit, manipulation, and literal imprisonment, Maddy’s mother is just as abusive as Olly’s father.