I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying whatever you’ve been reading! I just finished a book called ‘ Close Enough To Touch’ by Colleen Oakley. This was a very sweet and moving story about a young woman named Jubilee Jenkins who has an allergy to *wait for it* human touch. Woah, right?!
At first I was afraid, maybe afraid isn’t the right word, let’s say hesitant, that this story would take an ‘Everything, Everything’ turn. If you have not read ‘Everything, Everything’ by Nicola Yoon, I HIGHLY recommend you do. If you have read ‘Everything, Everything’, then you will know what I mean when I say an ‘Everything, Everything’ turn. I don’t like to say twist because nothing aggravates me more as a reader than reading about a book and reading a blurb or hearing someone say “THIS BOOK HAS A HUGE TWIST!” It’s like, uhh thanks for that. Thanks for ruining the surprise! *rolls eyes*
Anywho, this story was not like that at all and I was very relieved. This isn’t a dig to ‘Everything, Everything’ at all, by the way, because these are both separate stories, with separate circumstances other than the shared plot focusing on the main character dealing with a debilitating allergy. So our main character is Jubilee Jenkins. Jubilee grew up just with her mother. Her father was never in the picture. When Jubilee was a baby, her mother noticed she would constantly break out in a rash of hives. After going from doctor to doctor, taking test after test, it was discovered that Jubilee was born with a rare genetic mutation in her DNA that causes her to be absent of certain human proteins. This diagnosis has caused Jubilee to become a pariah of sorts. Growing up, Jubilee couldn’t have a normal childhood. She had to wear long sleeves and gloves on her hands at school. Her fellow classmates never knew why Jubilee had to wear the gloves, causing various rumors to swirl. The worst repercussion of Jubilee’s condition was that her own mother could not touch her. This obviously causes a rift in their relationship.
A terrible dare in high school that leaves Jubilee on the cusp of death forces Jubilee to drop out and get her GED at home. And thus begins Jubilee’s life as a recluse. Jubilee ends up spending nine years confined to her home. Doing anything she can to avoid human contact. She even resorts to ordering her groceries online. Jubilee’s mother eventually meets and moves in with a man named Lenny, leaving Jubilee the house to herself. When Jubilee’s mother dies, Lenny calls Jubilee to inform her that since her mother passed away, Jubilee would no longer be receiving money to pay her bills. While coming to the realization of her mother’s death, Jubilee also realizes she will have to leave the house. And she’s terrified.
Jubilee decides to leave her house one day. After discovering that her mother’s car is out of gas, she finds the courage to ride her bike to the local gas station to buy some gasoline when she runs into an old high school classmate named Madison. Madison is the last person she wants to see. In high school, it was Madison’s then-boyfriend and now-divorced husband, Donovan, who caused Jubilee to leave high school in the first place. Donovan kissed Jubilee in high school, and Jubilee almost died. She always believed Madison, of all people, had dubbed her a freak, like so many of her other classmates, however, Madison ends up being the person to help Jubilee become a person of the outside world again. After Madison helps Jubilee get a job at the local library in town, they become friends. Jubilee is afraid to tell Madison the truth about her life and condition, but Madison only proves to be the genuine friend Jubilee has always wanted.
We also meet another character named Eric. Eric is a thirty-something divorcee, new to the town of Lincoln New Jersey for work. This also happens to be where Jubilee also lives. Eric has a fifteen year old daughter who isn’t speaking to him. He wants so desperately to fix their relationship, but her doesn’t know how, other than sending her text messages that he know will go unanswered. Eric also has another dilemma. He’s become the new guardian to his late best friend, Dinesh’s, ten year old son, Aja. Dinesh and his wife, Kate passed away 6 months prior in a plane crash. Eric wants to be a father-like figure to Aja, but doesn’t know how to reach him. Aja is an intelligent and socially awkward boy who’s obsession with X-Men is what harbors his deep feelings and theories concerning his parent’s death.
During a Halloween event at the library, Eric and Jubilee meet for the first time. Eric feels drawn to Jubilee, not only because of her looks, but because she dresses up as Emily Dickinson, whom his mother loves. And despite her gloved hands, which he can’t quite understand, Eric wants to know her. Little does Eric know that he and Jubilee will become intertwined when she comes to Aja’s rescue a few days later. It’s that instance that brings Eric to want to pay her back and know just who Jubilee really is. However, Jubilee is scared to let her guard down. Not only because she can’t be touched, but because she never believed anyone would want to care about her so deeply. It’s both Madison’s good friendship and Eric’s burgeoning curiosity that coerces Jubilee to ask herself, what if there was a cure? And if there was, is it worth trying to find out?
All in all, I resonated with Jubilee, because although her experience was more agoraphobic than general anxiety, the anxiety was still there. Sometimes with anxiety, simply finding the energy to get out of bed, let alone going out into the world, can be be very daunting and exhausting. And the way Jubilee was with Eric I related to so much because I can understand how even being near someone you may like, can be scary and nerve-wracking, even without a life-threatening allergy to people. And especially given her past and overall lack of romantic experience, I was like, “Yes girl, I’m right with you there.”
I originally gave this 5/5 stars on Goodreads, but after mulling it over, I decided to go with a 3.7/4 star rating. This isn’t a bad thing at all, because I really enjoyed this. However, in spite of that, I feel like the ending was kind of wrapped up too quickly since the majority of the story was a little drawn out. This story kept my interest and also kept me on the edge of my seat.