Title: Every Day
Author: David Levithan (Boy Meets Boy, How They Met and Other Stories, The Lover’s Dictionary)
Genre: Young adult/romance
Page Count: 322
The Basics: Every Day is told from the point of view of A, a 16-year-old who wakes up in the body of a different 16-year-old every day. Some days, A is a girl; some days A is a boy. Some days A lives a happy life; some days A inhabits a body that is depressed, addicted to drugs, or suicidal. A has learned to live with this existence, trying to refrain from interfering with any aspect of the lives he inhabits, until the day he wakes up in the body of a boy named Justin and falls in love with Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that day on, A is determined to find Rhiannon again, with far-reaching consequences. And once A does find her again, can she truly love a person whose appearance, whose life, changes every day?
Strengths: This novel is a brilliant parable about literally walking around in someone else’s shoes for a day. After reading it, I became convinced that it should be required reading for high school students because it would help to open so many eyes to the fact that we are all incredibly similar when it comes to what we feel and how we can love. The greatest strength of this novel is in the way it humanizes each life that A inhabits, showing that we are more than our bodies, our sexual orientations, our mental or physical illnesses, and even our genders. A’s greatest accomplishment in the novel is getting Rhiannon to realize that what is on the outside, what society says matters, actually matters so much less than what is inside of a person. The ability to love is what makes people—what makes life—beautiful, and that’s a very inspiring message.
In addition to its important social message, this novel is also quite a page-turner. With engrossing prose as well as an original and compelling plot, I couldn’t put this book down. There are moments of true suspense born out of the high emotional stakes inherent to the novel’s subject matter. A becomes tangled in claims of demonic possession and the web of a preacher who is not what he seems after a reckless night in pursuit of Rhiannon changes one boy’s life forever. Each email sent from this boy, asking questions about the bits of that night that don’t add up in his memory, raise the stakes and made my heart race. There was also one gut-wrenching day where A inhabits the body of a deeply depressed girl and discovers her journal, in which she’d written the date she was planning on committing suicide. As A struggles with whether or not to tell her father and get her help—and risk interfering too much in her life—the ethical dilemmas posed by A’s very existence become terribly real and deeply affecting.
Weaknesses: The novel’s biggest weakness is the huge amount of disbelief that needs to be suspended in order to buy into its central premise. Whenever I tried to describe the plot to other people, I found myself saying over and over again, “It’s better than it sounds!” It’s a great young adult novel because it’s written without cynicism, but that makes it difficult for many adults to accept without question. There are certainly plot holes to be found when you look too closely at the details of A’s existence (How do so many parents let their kid feign illness and skip school, which A relies on throughout the book? How can A access the memories in each body without accessing any emotions from the other person’s life? How was A born?). For me, the emotional aspects of the story and the beauty of its writing were more than enough to compel me to suspend my disbelief and buy everything that Levithan was selling. For others who demand more certainty and explanation from their novels, this might not be the book for you. However, I’d encourage anyone to at least give it a chance.
My Favorite Passage: “Ultimately, the universe doesn’t care about us. Time doesn’t care about us. That’s why we have to care about each other…I watch her as she falls asleep next to me. I watch her as she breathes. I watch her as the dreams take hold. This memory. I will only have this. I will always have this.”
Final Thoughts: Every Day is a novel that can be seen as many things to many people. It speaks volumes about the equalizing power of love, the irrelevance of outward appearance and societal norms, and the shared humanity of all people. For some, it’s a story that speaks to them about love existing beyond gender. For others, it resonates with them in the way mental illness is treated with care and respect. For me, though, I was captivated by the heartbreaking nature of this love story about a person who can only find permanence and purpose in loving a girl who cannot love them back the same way, for reasons neither of them can help. This novel is the perfect tale of the kind of young love that lives on borrowed time, with the knowledge that love is enough to change everything and not enough to change anything at the same time. The ending of this novel is truly bittersweet, and I was surprised by how genuinely moved I was when I turned the last page. Every Day may not be the best new novel I read this year (that title belong to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars), but it’s a beautiful novel in its own right.