Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.


The use of glass as a barrier is significant throughout the story because it physically holds Maddy in, yet its transparency allows her to see what she is missing on the outside. Maddy watches life through her bedroom window, often touching it with her hands or leaning her forehead against it, illuminating that she is held behind it and cannot break free. The astronaut’s helmet is another clear symbol of glass being a barricade when Maddy includes him in the diner, surrounded by food but not being able to access any of it. Since Maddy has lived her life behind glass, it is natural that when Mr. Waterman asks how the astronaut will eat that Maddy realizes that it did not occur to her that that was an option.


Books are used throughout the story to show that Maddy has spent most of her life having only experienced adventures through reading. The books she reads and refers to are those that are typically required reading in high school, which increases the possibility that the reader will be familiar with Maddy’s favorite stories. Maddy draws parallels between the characters and plots in her books to real-life happenings, connecting her imaginary world with her newfound experiences. The story begins with Maddy writing the “reward if found” in one of her books, and the final scene has Olly finding her favorite book and discovering that the reward for finding it is Maddy herself. Finally, the title of the book is taken from one of Maddy’s spoiler reviews of The Little Prince when she declares, “Love is everything. Everything.”

The Universe and the Astronaut

Maddy hides an astronaut, representing herself, in all of her dioramas. The astronaut can visit a public place but must wear full protective gear and an airtight helmet. As Maddy is falling in love with Olly, she daydreams of being an astronaut once again, floating above the earth and seeing broadly the world that she is missing. Olly’s sculpture of the universe illustrates the desire for him and Maddy to be able to make sense of the moments in life that change us. Finally, when Maddy and Olly make love, Maddy declares that she knows all the secrets of the universe, which tells us that the moment she is living in makes her feel complete.

The Ocean

Olly uses the ocean as a symbol of something that can be dangerous if not respected. He tells Maddy his eye color is ocean blue, and when they meet, he describes the ocean to her as if it is a living thing that is awesome, beautiful, impersonal, and murderous. He seems fearful. In Hawaii, when Olly and Maddy go snorkeling and cliff diving in the ocean, Maddy feels alive and euphoric, a stark contrast to the foreboding that Olly provided when he first explained the ocean. After Maddy and Olly return home and Maddy is remorseful for having run away, she compares her guilt to an ocean that she is drowning in. The ocean is a symbol of both life and death.