Every Day by David Levithan
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Cindy: I have been an unabashed fan of David Levithan’s writing starting back in 2003 when I read Boy Meets Boy and helped to vote it onto the BBYA 2004 Top Ten list. Since then I have found wisdom, humor, poetry, a lime green couch and always, always the theme of the importance of love in each of his books. I have favorites among those, and some that were less successful for me, but with Every Day (Random/Knopf 2012) he has created something special.
A (our protagonist’s name) wakes up each day in a different body that matches A’s chronological age (now 16+). Inhabiting that body for the day, A makes sure to be asleep by midnight when the otherwise painful switch occurs, and the next morning it starts all over again. Sometimes A is female, sometimes male. When A was little, the changes were confusing but now an accepted routine has set in. Mornings with most families are similar as a teen. No one speaks much to each other, instead consumed in breakfast, newspapers, and daily preparations. In fact, it is often easy for A to navigate a day with a family without much interaction. I was reminded of articles I’ve read about how few “real” conversations many families or long term couples have. Think about your day yesterday…what words were exchanged between you and someone you live with? Was it meaningful conversation or something that a stranger could have faked if he spent a day in your body?
A has grown accustomed to this life until the day that he occupies Justin’s body and spends a day at the beach with his girlfriend Rhiannon (cue the Fleetwood Mac song). He is a kinder, gentler version of her boyfriend and she notices. She likes it. A is drawn to her in a way he hasn’t experienced before. He can’t stay away and finds ways to visit her in the days to come in other hosts. He risks everything to tell her his secret and to earn her confidence and they work to see each other whenever schedules and proximity allow. As has always been the case, some days A shows up in a male body, on others in a female body. Rhiannon is less comfortable with A when he is in a female body. I liked this look at love and relationship. Complicating the situation is the fact that Rhiannon is still dating Justin but the relationship with A is a close friendship with brimming desire and honest conversation, but he wants more. He wants a real relationship with Rhiannon. Is that possible?
Teen relationships are usually fraught with complications. Will my parents approve? More importantly, will my friends approve? I’m off to college and he’s not. You’re the wrong race, religion, sex. I’m having a bad hair day. Jealousy. Unrequited love. You name it. But this relationship really tests the limits. How can you love someone who really CAN’T be there for you every day?
Why is A this way? He doesn’t know. He was born that way. That’s all he knows. Some readers might want more explanation of the plot device, but I enjoyed the ride and think teens will be intrigued by each new daily incarnation regardless of the reason. And, perhaps, Levithan is creating a metaphor for the endless debate about whether someone is born gay or chooses to be. A is born to be in a new body each day. He doesn’t know why. He didn’t know that who he was wasn’t “normal” until he was older and learned that he was “different.” Maybe I’m all wet. What do you think?
I read this book in our hammock on one of my final unscheduled days of summer…the perfect place to contemplate life and love. The sentimental folks among you might want to keep the tissues handy. High schools will want multiple copies of this story to meet the demand as teens hand sell it to each other. And if your copy is checked out, you can get a taste of the beginning of the novel in this creative book trailer that reinforces the reality of A’s strange existence. Students might like watching it too in order to see some of their favorite authors in cameo appearances.
I would encourage you to READ EVERY DAY. Hey, isn’t that a Scholastic slogan? Huh.