Friday, December 14, 2012

Every Day (David Levithan)

How's this for a high concept? A is a spirit sentient of its own existence, and existence in which the spirit must inhabit the body of a new person every day. The only rule governing this body-switching is that the person must be of the same age as A, but everything else is free game. Normally, A drifts from body to body without thinking much, trying its (I keep saying "it" because there really isn't a gender attached to A) best to get the rented body through the day as normally as possible.

One day, A meets Rhiannon while inside Justin's (her boyfriend) body and falls in love with her. A breaks all of its rules to be with her, doing things outside of Justin's normal behavior (which includes things like being nice to Rhiannon, which is very sad), and when A wakes up the next morning, all he can do is think about Rhiannon. A starts hijacking the lives of people it is inhabiting, skipping their classes to drive to Rhiannon's school. There comes a day when A cannot bear it any longer and comes clean to Rhiannon about its existence; so begins their romance.

I was immensely thrilled by this book. Each chapter is one day, which pleasantly reminded me of The Time Traveler's Wife. The love story was engaging because the concept was so intriguing--can love work if one of the people involved is in a different body every day? Can Rhiannon love somebody who can be (and is) everybody else? I get annoyed with positive reviews of books that go on about the book being so compelling that it's hard to put down (especially when the word "unputdownable" comes into the picture--that's not even a word! Fools.) because it's something that I rarely experience. However, Every Day was like that for me. I purposely walked away from the book to do other things (namely, write other book reviews) but found myself drawn back; I had no desire to do anything but read Levithan's book!

A is such an fantastic character--as a reader, I have never encountered anyone/anything in a situation like A's, and so it is (for me) endlessly interesting to read about A. The book does a fascinating job of dropping A into strange situations over and over, and it's a pleasure to watch the spirit (who, we might assume, has no personality or emotion after 16 years of body-jumping) adjust and handle every problem it might face (being inside the body of a drug addict, for example). Other characters are less vivid because of their transience--the only character we're guaranteed to see during the whole book is A. Even Rhiannon is a little bland (she is continually shrouded in mysterious statements about her strength and kindness that are there to set her apart, but she doesn't seem particularly special), but A's stunning characterization more than makes up for it.

Every Day is a YA book, and like a great many YA books, it falls victim to heavy-handedness and preaching. I am, on my own, not particularly adept at spotting overly "deep" passages--when I encounter them, I don't notice them unless I have gone looking. Unfortunately, I read the book on my Kindle and I have the "show frequently highlighted passages" feature turned on; the only things that people highlight are the pretentious ruminations about life and love, so I was forced to notice (and be displeased by) them. Worse than that, though, was the preaching. This is something that I can catch on to without help.

In this book, it takes the form of "love is on the inside"; Levithan puts A into the bodies of some "less-than-ideal" people and projects his own feelings onto A and the judgmental feelings of society onto Rhiannon. For example, A appears in the body of an overweight teenage boy and gets frustrated that Rhiannon feels unable to love him because he isn't skinny. There were quite a few times when A is a girl and Rhiannon is much less affectionate. Worst of all, A appears as a girl who wishes that she were born a boy and, at first, it seems Rhiannon is repulsed; I say worst of all because it is the moment when the book is most preachy because it manages to deal with gender identity and homosexuality all at once. A, having no actual gender, has no problem dealing with it, but it wants to make Rhiannon learn to accept love in all its forms. I know I rolled my eyes--stop trying so hard.

But I don't want to let that take away from the overall book, which was magnificent and thoroughly impressive. I know I just spent a long time ranting about its flaws, but as I note, these are flaws inherent to the modern YA novel and I see them fairly regularly. It doesn't stop me from loving the book for its fascinating premise, which is the foundation upon which all the good is built. Every Day is one of the most engaging love stories I have ever read.

My Rating: 4.5/5
Every Day on Goodreads
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  1. I definitely found this book intriguing and thought it addressed many aspects of life that live in the 'gray area' (like how when you're in love, you shouldn't really care what gender they are). However, I found it extremely depressing. Even when A was happy, I couldn't help but notice that it wouldn't last. I just felt that he (to me he's always seemed like a guy) deserved more

  2. To be honest, I was sort of hoping he would find a way to stay in Alexander's body (did anyone else notice both names start with A and that A felt very similar to Alexander-if he were given an actual life to live?) In the end though, I know he did the right thing, no matter how awful I felt for him. I think we all have to give mad props to A for being able to live life as selfishly as he does.