Sep 08, 12
I first encountered David Levithan’s work nearly a decade ago when I happened to catch sight of the cover of Boy Meets Boy in a local bookstore: simple, elegant, three candy hearts, three little words. I picked up the book, read the teaser on the inside cover of the book jacket, and ran (sprinter-style) to the cashier’s counter to pay for it. I may or may not have taken out a couple people in the process. Besides being a lovely, romantic story, Boy Meets Boy fundamentally changed what was possible in YA LGBTQ storytelling. It’s still rare to encounter such joy and acceptance and humor in most YA LGBTQ narratives. Almost ten years later, Levithan’s Every Day is equally surprising. It’s darker, but like Boy Meets Boy, it pushes boundaries and forces readers to confront their assumptions about what is “normal” and what love looks and feels like.
In Every Day, A (the main character) wakes up every day in a different body. This has been happening for as long as A can remember. Although the promo for this book uses the pronoun “he” to refer to A, this isn’t really accurate; A doesn’t have a specific gender. Because A doesn’t have a body to speak of, s/he assumes the gender of the body of that day’s person. Over the course of the novel, A is male, female, and transgendered. In the same way, A’s sexuality can’t be defined. S/he has been attracted to boys as well as girls in the past, and the people whose bodies A has occupied have been both gay and straight. The only constant in this process is that A’s age is the same as the bodies s/he enters.
In general, A accepts this life. It’s fascinating, but it’s not conducive to forming any sort of personal attachments. A knows this and doesn’t mind it, really, until s/he meets Rhiannon. Then, A wants more. A wants to be with her.
What fascinated and impressed me most about Every Day was that every character (with the exception of Rhiannon’s boyfriend, Justin) felt real. A is complicated and so is Rhiannon and so is every single person A inhabits. Some of these characters are certainly types, but because we see them through A’s empathetic point of view, they’re not merely empty vessels. A isn’t biding his/her time in their bodies. S/he’s living their lives. S/he feels responsible for their lives, even as s/he tries to live a life of his/her own. As a result, even after a day, we feel like we know them.
I loved the questions the book prompted me to consider: What would it be like to experience life in this way? What would it be like to spend the day as me? Yikes. Perhaps more importantly, I appreciated that Levithan never resolved the problem of A’s gender or sexuality because it’s not a problem for A. It is, however, an issue for Rhiannon who can “see” A in all of these people, but can’t necessarily reconcile her own growing feelings for A with A’s constantly changing appearance. Is it even possible to love someone who looks different every day?
As I approached the end, I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out how Levithan would resolve everything. He does, sort of – and it’s pretty darn romantic – but the romance isn’t without sacrifice. Ultimately, I can’t decide if the ending is about A’s agency and hope or something else (fear? escape? self-preservation?). Levithan certainly leaves open the possibility that there will be more to A’s story.
Like Boy Meets Boy and all of Levithan’s other work, the writing is elegant and engaging, the narrative innovative and beautifully crafted. I don’t love the book in the same way I love Boy Meets Boy, but I sincerely appreciate Levithan’s ability to tell me stories I haven’t heard before and to tell them in ways that startle me into paying closer attention. This is why I continue to race to the bookstore every time he publishes something new. This is why I have a feeling I’ll be reading Every Day again (and again).