Rating: 4.5 out of 5
I would say Happy Super Bowl Sunday, but most in my neck of the woods aren't happy since the San Francisco 49ers lost the big game. I was in tears myself, but not over the score. I just finished David Levithan's novel Every Day, which got me pretty emotional towards the end. I know that many of you have read this book already and want to hear my thoughts, so let's jump right in!
If you aren't familiar with this story, my summary's going to sound very strange. The narrator is a disembodied spirit who calls himself A and wakes up every day in a different 16-year-old's body. I say "himself" due to hetero-normative biases, but technically A has no gender. Levithan does his best to fight society's definition of normalcy, by placing A in a variety of bodies: male, female, straight, gay, transgender, obese, gorgeous, introverted, hostile. There were even a couple heart-wrenching chapters in which A found himself in people suffering from addiction and depression.
Because of this body-hopping, A has observed a vast amount of life in a short amount of time, dealing with countless combinations of sibling rivalries, financial situations, and school cliques. But it isn't until he falls in love with Rhiannon after possessing her boyfriend Justin when he realizes just how much he's missing. Not only can he never meet her friends and family, he often has to face waking up hours away from her, or with too many obligations to the person he's inhabiting in order to see her.
This book could be narrowed down to a simple boy(?)-meets-girl plot, which Levithan writes extremely well, navigating the roller-coaster of teenage love. However, it's A's unique struggle that allows us to feel grateful for things we take for granted, like the security of knowing that someone is there for you and the hope of growing together. Luckily, the author places limitations on A's travels, given that he'd be treading in ethically murky water if he could become people of any age. A also never seems to have to deal with being inside the truly dangerous and psychotic, thank goodness.
I'm not trivializing the difficulty of trying to find love in A's world. Life is hard at 16 or 61, but I sometimes thought of how much easier it seemed when you didn't have to worry about finding work or paying rent. The love between A and Rhiannon is as stable as it could be in such circumstances, with so many innocently sweet moments. It's interesting that with such a weird premise, you can still catch yourself walking down memory lane. That's the beauty of the story--it doesn't matter who you are, we're all bound by human experiences.
However, I did appreciate the realism amidst the fantasy. A would suffer from the naive thinking that love conquers all, but Rhiannon struggled to remain open-minded when meeting a new person every day. Yes, it's what (or who) is on the inside that really matters, but the outside isn't irrelevant. Physical attraction and sexual orientation do play important roles, and I'm glad that Levithan depicted Rhiannon as a tolerant yet grounded individual with a life outside her relationship, and not as some infatuated princess willing to drop everything for a boy.
All in all, Every Day is a beautiful novel with some wonderful insights on life and love. As much as I would have liked to see some perspectives included (teenage pregnancy? special needs? bullying?), I understand that it's less about chronicling different points-of-view and more about discovering who you are and what you want when you have no frame of reference. Quite a feat for a writer!
This is one book that gets people talking, so share your views in the comments! And whether you're already a fan of Levithan or are inspired to check out his other work, read my review of The Lover's Dictionary while you're at it!