I was lucky to receive an advance copy of David Levithan’s new YA book Every Day. How could I resist a story about a sixteen year old kid who wakes up …”Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl?” I’ve read a few of Levithan’s other books, and all of them have, if not a pretty strong message for today’s high school kids, at least some interesting food for thought. Not being a high school kid myself, I always wonder what the teenage take on his books really is.
In Every Day, Levithan seeks to answer the questions of what it would be like living in the body and life of a different person every day. What would it be like to be “purely a self, with no set gender, race, family, or orientation of any kind? Could someone fall in love with a person who changed every day?” Each day, “A” wakes up and has to quickly figure out who “he” is. I write “he” only because the first person the reader comes across on Day 5994 of A’s life is a “he”. He has to discover the color of his skin, his gender, the length of his hair, the size and shape of his body, and then, where he is, what his family is like, and of course, if he has a test that day in whatever high school he attends. A is always himself, yet he is always the person he wakes up as. Until midnight when he will be ripped from his current body (he prefers to be sleeping when this happens) to wake up in/as another. He has figured out how to do this with a pretty firm set of ethics. He doesn’t allow his new body to get hurt (after trying to ski as an 11 year old and breaking a few bones). He doesn’t allow the body to do hard drugs, even if the body is addicted. And he almost always gets his homework done.
All this goes pretty well, until Day 5994 (he keeps an online diary) when he wakes up as the jerky boyfriend of a girl (Rhiannon) and has the best day of his life. Once A has a person he loves in which to focus, he starts trying to understand his life a little bit more. He knows he will never figure out his own existence, but suddenly “he wants his life to be real.” The rest of the story chronicles A’s daily battle of trying to get back to Rhiannon in whatever body he is inhabiting; some of those bodies being comical, others happy, others drug addled, and another depressingly suicidal. The range of 16 year old lives A inhabits is huge, which is pretty typical of Levithan’s style. The author seems to relish in inclusiveness. By being a different person every day, A has come to accept every body. He can be male, female, straight, gay, and everything in between. Everyone has worth, whether beautiful, ugly, fat, thin, athletic, not, outgoing, or introverted. And A feels a responsibility to each of his bodies without actually interfering with their lives. Pretty wise for a 16 year old, right?
When A convinces Rhiannon of his atypical existence he finally begins to find some meaning in why he’s here and what is happening to him (kind of reminds me of The Little Prince and his rose). Then the trouble begins. What happens when the person you love can’t accept you as you are (a truly different person every day)? What happens when someone you’ve inhabited remembers you were there? And what do you do when you find out there might be others like you and possibly a means to control who you are and what body you get?
Every Day was a great story with a couple interesting messages. I enjoyed A’s open-mindedness and acceptance of others, his attempts at understanding love and relationships, and his desire to exhibit responsibility to and for the lives he affected, but I did feel a little “preached to” by the author. A is still only a 16 year old kid, and although he has lived many lives, they have all been as any other child would age chronologically. As an adult reader of young adult books, I always wonder what the actual young adults out there would say about these stories. Do those crazy teenagers appreciate or resent this adult-like insight into their lives? Do they want their 16 year old protagonists to stumble through their lives just a little but still let them know it’ll all be ok? Or will they yell, Whatever! and move on? If you’re a real young adult and read Every Day as well as this review, let me know. I’m really curious to hear what you think.