Anne's Reviews > Every Day

Every Day by David Levithan
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Aug 29, 2012

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Read in August, 2012

I have a complicated relationship with this book. On the one hand, the premise is SUPER GREAT. He bodyswaps every single day, but I really could've used even more bodyswapping. UGH BODYSWAPPING, I WANT TO ROLL AROUND IN IT. And I read the whole book in a day, which, like, I barely even finish books anymore, so that's impressive, and there is definitely huge talent in writing something where the reader wants to know what happens next. The storyline with Nathan was greaaaaaat (except for the letdown at the end of A not wanting to know more about Poole -- UGH, SPEC FICTION HEROES, PLEASE ALWAYS WANT TO KNOW MORE) and several of the bodyswapping minidramas were super compelling (the depressed girl, the siblings toward the beginning) and frankly, I wish the whole book had been like that.

However. The romance is the blandest bland thing in all Blandtopia, and unfortunately it's pretty much the A plot here. The only reason I could see that A loves Rhiannon so much is that she seems to him like a vulnerable waif who needs to be rescued from her allegedly horrible boyfriend. (A is the biggest Nice Guy TM you've ever read, it's gross.) Speaking of which, A is allegedly raceless and genderless, but I am using the male pronoun because he comes across suuuuuuper like a white dude, because it's pretty rare for any other demographic to be as condescending as he often is. (Haha is that mean? It's true, anyway.) Which, also, he talks about being attracted to a PERSON not a GENDER in that annoying way that smug bisexuals sometimes do when they believe that their uncontrollable sexual preference is more open-minded and so morally superior to other people's uncontrollable sexual preferences. Ugh.

I think the unexamined privilege of the author is what damages the book the most for me. He's trying to write a book about what it would be like to exist without the external things that define all of us (race, gender, sexuality, family, etc) but he's a white dude and he writes like a white dude. I mean, how could you not? But I don't think he really understands what it's like to have people NOT automatically take your opinions as more important than other people's. And I think it comes across as though the default state of being human -- what's normal, what everyone would be like if they didn't have a body -- is like a white man. Which our culture assumes all the time, so it's not weird he would unconsciously think that, but it makes for a much less interesting book.

Anyway. On the plus side, gay and trans people exist and are treated respectfully. (He gets suuuuuuper preachy about gay rights, though. Nothing he says is wrong, except the tone of wanting a cookie for having, like, a bare minimum of human decency.) On the minus side, the chapter where he bodyswaps into a fat person is the most horrifyingly offensive thing I've ever read.

So, um, it's a mixed bag, is what I'm saying.
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06/17/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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message 1: by katie (new)

katie I feel like david leviathan cares about gay rights at the expense of examining other privilege so I'm not super surprised, but am a little disappointed because I was saying I really wanted to read it, but these facts are a little off putting.

Anne I've never read anything else by him, but I could suuuuuuper see that. I don't exactly know if I would not recommend it, though? I mean, I REALLY enjoyed a lot of it, I could not put it down. But I might've been almost hate-reading it by the end, haha. It's definitely not a big commitment of a read, though, so if you get it from the library or something, you should, and then we can bitch about it together. :P

message 3: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Ugh, I've read Boy Meets Boy, Wide Awake and Will Grayson, Will Grayson and vaguely disliked them all. (I am the only person in the UNIVERSE who disliked Will Grayson, Will Grayson, though. It's hard out here for me.) My problems with Levianthan are kind of vague and sometimes overly personalized, but I think Katie's right about the expense of examining other privilege. Some of his other books have gotten very, very overly enamored with the idea of dismantling homophobia and straight privilege (to the point where I felt like we'd entered the realm of magical realism, except none of these previous novels contained body swapping) and he's so busy both patting himself on the back and waiting for you to applaud him for how provocative he's being that he ignores a looooooooot of his white guy privilege. So a book where he literally uses magical realism to actually try to dismantle all privilege ... yeah, unfortunately I'm not surprised that went off the rails.

Anne Oh man, I should read Will Grayson, Will Grayson in solidarity because I have read one John Green book and now one David Levithan book and come out of both of them really disliking each author as a person, so I bet I would double hate it, haha.

Some of his other books have gotten very, very overly enamored with the idea of dismantling homophobia and straight privilege (to the point where I felt like we'd entered the realm of magical realism, except none of these previous novels contained body swapping)

Hahaaaaaaaa true story, this book is similar -- I honestly felt reading it like, "Okay, the bodyswapping I can totally accept, but the way everyone is super cool with all these gay and trans teens strains credulity." So there's that.

But yeah, I think you guys are totally right -- the thrust of this book is very much RACE AND GENDER DO NOT MATTER, which obviously is something only a person drowning in privilege ever thinks.

(Also I feel like he undercuts his message of tolerance for sexuality or whatever, because -- like, he says in words that people can't help who they're attracted to, but then seems to think that the people you are sexually/romantically attracted to have nothing to do with your body? Which is SUPER WEIRD -- like, the main character bodyswaps into a person who is very depressed, and he too is very depressed, but he's still in love with this one girl no matter if he's in the body of a gay boy or a straight girl or anybody? That is... odd.)

message 5: by Kelly (new)

Kelly like, he says in words that people can't help who they're attracted to, but then seems to think that the people you are sexually/romantically attracted to have nothing to do with your body?

So this is SUPER tangential, but this makes me think of an on-going discussion Martha and I have been having about Geoff Ryman, another gay author whose gay-themed stories always vaguely bum me out. I was saying to Martha re: Ryman that I feel like he has a lot of nature v. nurture issues about homosexuality that come through in his fiction in ... awkward ways. I feel like Levithan has the same lurking problem, but (as I was saying to Katie yesterday for totally unrelated reasons), the nature v. nurture debate is super interesting except we're not allowed to talk about it because The Movement has decided that the path to civil rights is 100% full-frontal born-this-way. And I don't even disagree with this as a, like, political strategy but it's annoying when people try to work out their feelings about it in fiction. I don't know, I feel like "maybe there are some ways where you do self-determine your sexual preference" is the new gay subtext.

message 6: by Alex (new)

Alex David Levithan bums me out all the time. It's like he has zero ability to write a character that isn't him.

Anne Kelly: That is v. interesting to me, I would like to subscribe to your newsletter! I'm wondering how much of it is generational -- not that Levithan is that much older than us, but I feel like that ten years is a crucial ten years in some ways. And I don't know how much of it is that he's writing a YA book or what, but overall his views on sexuality just seem... facile. But when you get hampered by agenda it can just be a bummer, I don't know if you heard Todd Glass on Marc Maron's podcast when he came out, but it was a little bit frustrating because I felt like he was trying so hard to be a good role model that he could hardly say anything really honest, which left him being a little bit like, "I have always believed being gay is totally fine, t-that's why I was closeted for 40 years?" Idk, obviously that's his business, but I felt frustrated as a listener.

Alex: Ughhhhh I can see that. I hate how when dudes have a Mary Sue problem they never get called on it either.

Jason Yes, this is a problem with Levithan. I felt like Will Grayson Will Grayson while overrated worked because Levithan + Green both have consistent flaws/strengths which balance each other out when they alternate chapters.

message 9: by katie (new)

katie I totally agree about wg, wg- I expected to hate it due to issues i consistently have w/ both green & levithan, but actually thought they balanced each other.

message 10: by Kelly (new)

Kelly @Anne -- Yeah, I feel like the 10 years is critical because Levithan is writing YA and also because that generational gap is on either side of a pretty significant sea change in terms of how young kids are when they willing choose to come out. The whole time I was in college (like, ten years ago), whenever I mentioned that I came out to friends at 14 and parents at 15, this was always suuuuuuuuper shocking and judged to be very young. Less than a decade later, I feel like coming out at 14 is totally common. This relates back to Levithan because I feel like his YA stories, I was saying that his depiction of LGBT acceptance borders on magical realism, but it's also really just wish fulfillment, right?

So now we reach the point where I've spent waaaaaaaay too much time about this because I actually went to read David Levithan's bio because I was starting to feel bad about making so many assumptions about him as a person. And he says:

"With Boy Meets Boy, I basically set out to write the book that I dreamed of getting as an editor – a book about gay teens that doesn't conform to the old norms about gay teens in literature (i.e. it has to be about a gay uncle, or a teen who gets beaten up for being gay, or about outcasts who come out and find they're still outcasts, albeit outcasts with their outcastedness in common.) I'm often asked if the book is a work of fantasy or a work of reality, and the answer is right down the middle – it's about where we're going, and where we should be."

So that's really interesting, but I think the problem is that generation gap -- his version of "where we're going" comes across as "where I, a privileged cisgendered white guy, wish we had been going ... back in the early 90s."

message 11: by Tracy (new)

Tracy You are a Joy and a Delight to me.

Jason Hmm, I'm college aged and people I know who came out mostly didn't do so until college. And a fair amount plan never to be out to their family.

message 13: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Jason, if you're interested, this is a really interesting New York Times article about the trend of teens coming out in 7th and 8th grade. Your milage may vary, obviously (especially depending on where you live), but I do think there's an overall average trend towards kids coming out younger and younger.

Jason Hmm, that is a well-written, interesting article and I DO think progress is being made, but it's still dead-depressing. Some excerpts that were downers:

“His dad would give him up for adoption if he knew he was gay,” Austin told me..."I don’t think I would have come out if I wasn’t popular.”

81 percent reported being regularly harassed on campus because of their sexual orientation.

“Bisexual girls have it the easiest,” Austin told me in Oklahoma. “Most of the straight guys at school think that’s hot, so that can make the girl even more popular.

Classmates regularly called him the “gay freak.” They groped themselves in front of him. Not a day went by when someone didn’t call him a “fag,” sometimes with teachers present. And at a football game last fall, several classmates forced him off the bleachers because it wasn’t “the queer section.”

“Even though this is a liberal area,” Alison explained, “it’s still hard to be gay at this school.

“The biggest difference I’ve seen in the last 10 years isn’t with gay kids — it’s with their families."

message 15: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Well, yeah, that's actually kind of the entire point of what I was saying above; about what bothers me about Levithan's books -- he writes magical realism about a world full of out-and-proud LGBT teens and it seems to be wish fulfillment about a reality he might have pined for 10-20 years ago that has a cognitively dissonant relationship to the current reality that the increasing number of very young out LGBT teens face.

Jason Ah, yes. I wanted to like Boy Meets Boy because it was a world I would want to be in, wasn't nearly well-written enough for me to ignore the fact that Levithan manages to neatly escape societal LGBT issues/problems. And like some reviews of Boy Meets Boy pointed out, it can make the reader just feel MORE depressed because the world they live in is so, so different from the fantasy Levithan creates. I mean, it's not Levithan's fault that society often sucks, but if his book is ultimately neither uplifting nor particularly well-crafted...

message 17: by keri. (new) - rated it 1 star

keri. this book has popped up on a few best of lists I've seen so far so here I am, looking it up, and I suspect I enjoyed this entire convo more than I'd like this book, because I can't really handle David Levithan. SO. thanks for that. :D

message 18: by Em (new) - rated it 3 stars

Em I also got the vibe that A is a Nice White Guy. I thought the premise is so good, but it just wasn't written that well. I mean, how great would it be to have genderqueer protagonists? But it just wasn't explored in a way that it could be.

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