Every Day (by David Levithan)

25 09 2012

Every day, A wakes up in a new body and experiences a day in the life of that body. When A wakes up  in the body of 16-year-old Justin he thinks will just be another day in the life of a rude high school jock-jerk. However, when A meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon, he starts to feel something he’s missing in his own transient existence: love. Of course, being in someone else’s body every day, not knowing whether that body will be male or female, close by or far way, the quintessential question arises: can love overcome being in a different body every day? Can A be loved regardless of whether (s)he is male, female, white, black, skinny, fat, popular, unpopular, … by the same person. Is there some kind of original ‘spark’ that determines one’s essence, one’s true spirit…  A believes there is, as he/she is living proof of that. A also wholeheartedly believes that love should be the strongest force ever and is as such almost obsessively focused on Rhiannon.

Every Day is more of an interesting thought experiment than it is an engaging novel, to be honest.  A is a pure self, completely ridden of any sort of bodily form. A is a self, whose life spark exists solely by virtue of his/her/its thoughts and memories. Over the course of A’s 16 years in existence, A has inhabited many different hosts, with many different lives, and very different families, and very different ideas. A has learned how to adapt, not to get involved and has even learned how to self-negate… that is until A sees Rhiannon and A too wants to be loved and love in return. Levithan very self-consciously explores the boundaries of love, which has always been one of his pet peeves, but definitely never this philosophical. In Every Day he takes us to the most outer edges of those boundaries, coming up with the most fluid of definitions of ‘a self’ as he consciously decides to let the main character A not focus on such particularities as gender or race or shape and size. They are not important if you focus on what is truly universal and unique about love.

If you look at Every Day as a ‘novel’, I think you might be disappointed. There are definitely a number of plot holes and issues which should have been addressed but aren’t . For example, why Rhiannon? What about the story line involving Nathan and the reverend? There are others like A? Where? What about them? What does that mean to A? This is such an intriguing question, but it is never developed by Levithan. Instead, Nathan and the reverend are just presented as some wacko religious nutters,…  and the storyline is discontinued when it could take you in a whole different direction.

Another problem is that all the secondary characters are flat characters as they only get one day to introduce themselves. There’s no character development: not for the bodies A inhabits, and not really for Rhiannon and A either. They are static (which is a weird concept if you think about the fact that A is such a fluid character…).

If you look at Every Day as an author’s vessel to convey a message, then the message initially seems to be very clear: love should know no boundaries. Gender doesn’t matter, or does it? As much as you want to believe this (and A certainly does), it seems that even the other characters don’t really. Rhiannon recognizes A for sure, but there’s not the same level of intimacy when A is a girl, which begs the questions whether gender and sex really don’t matter? Maybe not in an incorporeal world? But what world is that exactly? It also begs the questions as to what exactly love is. Because, like it or not, A is one obsessive dude(tte), and if that’s the sort of love he/she wants, then that is a very limited interpretation of the concept. Also, A (Levithan too?) preaches acceptance… when it comes to gender-issues. But what about when A wakes up in the body of a fat boy? Acceptance is nowhere in sight… I don’t know whether these seeming inconsistencies are there on purpose or not…

The reason why Every Day still gets the 3-star rating despite the many shortcomings is because of the fact that it’s definitely the type of book that makes you think about and then rethink some preconceived notions about gender, racial and sexual identity. Every Day has a fascinating premise, and is a daring thought experiment, executed just in the right way for what Levithan sets out to do (that pesky present tense… ). However, it cannot live up to anything the cat’s read before of Levithan, alone or in collaboration with another author.

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