“Every day I am someone else. I am myself–I know I am myself–but I am also someone else.
It has always been like this.”
A has no family, no attachments. No religion, no traditions. Genderless, raceless, it is a very insightful life. But it is also very lonely. The only way A has found to survive is to stay on the periphery: Never get attached. Never stand out. Never interfere.
Until A wakes up in Justin’s body and meets his girlfriend, Rhiannon. Previously the ultimate interloper, A finally finds someone worth staying for; someone to know. As A struggles to connect with Rhiannon from different bodies and distances, they will both learn that love can come in many different forms in Every Day (2012) by David Levithan.
As an editor and veteran novelist, Levithan is no stranger to writing compelling stories. Every Day lives up to the hype and praise it has been receiving. Levithan’s writing is strong and often quite beautiful in this story of love and isolation.
The initial premise is, understandably, difficult to accept. If you can get past that and willingly suspend your disbelief to go along with the story, you’ll probably be able to deal with the other problems in the book. (If you can’t, well, fantasies aren’t for everyone.)
Every Day starts strong, diving right into A’s world and all of its inherent problems. Things get complicated both for A and the reader when Rhiannon enters the story and A falls in love with her based on seemingly nothing but first sight.
Aside from feeling unconvincing in its speed and quick development, this love story came off very much as a plot device. In order for there to be a story connecting what would otherwise be day-long vignettes, A needs a reason to want to stay in one life. A needs a thread running through all of those different bodies. That thread becomes Rhiannon. But it could just as easily have become any number of other characters or things–making for a love story on shaky ground from the beginning.
Throughout Every Day, Levithan is at pains to use A to highlight the diversity of our world and the different and varied lives teenagers inhabit each day. Through A, Levithan points out that gender, religion and many other identifiers are little more than arbitrary social constructs. While this is absolutely true, and generally well-handled throughout the book, it also started turning up in places where it did nothing to move the plot forward instead just reminding readers that diversity is real and valuable. (Again, true and well-handled, but not key to a gripping read in and of itself.)
Similarly, the sheer scope of A’s world and the book’s premise often worked against Every Day. A inhabits many diverse characters throughout the story. But even while marveling at the myriad lives, it’s easy for Every Day to feel very normative. The people A inhabits who are religious go to church. There are no synagogues or mosques here. There were no obviously unattractive bodies. While an injured person features, there was no one with a physical disability.
Depression, addiction, suicide, and unhealthy relationships are all mentioned. But bullying never is. Abusive parents never are.
Finally, and more annoyingly, while A necessarily has no gender, race, etc. A is apparently thin. Because when A is in an overweight teen, things really go over the top. Aside from being incredibly one-dimensional as A talks about the sheer effort needed to do little things when weighing so much, this depiction made no sense given A’s context. Why, in this incredibly forward-thinking book, is weight so shocking and upsetting when gender/race/religion/social status are not? Why is this supposedly open-minded character so upset to be heavy? Why, in a book where looks are supposed to be secondary to personality, does overweight equate with being unattractive?
The story ends optimistically enough to make any romantic swoon and almost makes up for the earlier issues with the plot and characterization. Every Day really is easy to enjoy with Levithan’s effortless writing and the fascinating windows into so many different lives and worlds. The impact of A’s condition and the resulting connections and eventual aloofness are achingly poignant. Unfortunately, because Levithan does so many things well in Every Day, it is also very easy to see where the novel ultimately falls short.
Possible Pairings: Take Me There by Susane Colasanti, What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman, Slide by Jill Hathaway, Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier, Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith