November 29, 2012

[Review] Every Day by David Levithan

“I wake up thinking of yesterday. The joy is in remembering; the pain is in knowing it was yesterday.”
Have you ever wished that you could live as someone else for a day?  In Every Day, the main character does just that, except that it’s a daily occurrence that started at birth and he has no control over whose life he wakes up in.  A. is a sixteen-year-old who wakes up every morning in a different body, borrowing someone’s life for 24 hours.  A. has no parents, no gender, no body, and no name – nothing that isn't borrowed. There’s no rhyme or reason that A. can see for his lifestyle or any warning about who he’ll be when he wakes up, just that they’re all the same age as A. and in roughly the same geographical location.

A. has a set of rules to help him get through the day without making any lasting connection, which is fitting considering his unique circumstance. But when A. meets Rhiannon, he is willing to break all the rules to be with her.

I had mixed feelings about this one. Bear with me as I try to get to the heart of it without giving too much away. 

What I like most about Every Day is the intriguing concept.  This isn't the kind of book you read and at the end say, “aw, what a cute story” and quickly pick up something else to read. No. This story has the potential to linger long after putting it down. Every Day raises the question: Can you love someone when they’re a different person every day?

The writing is engaging and, at times, poetic. Why have I not picked up a book by this author before?

Though reminiscent of A Certain Slant of Light and Mercy, Every Day has something that sets it apart from other books I've read – it aims to challenge what makes us fall in love, reminding us in its own way that it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

What I didn't like about the book:

I started out really liking A. However, as the story progressed, he became slightly obsessive, pushy, irresponsible and overall a difficult character to sympathize with.  

A. has an indeterminate gender, but I never bought that. A. came across as male even when he was in a female’s body, so that’s why I keep referring to A. in the masculine form.

Despite the unanswered questions, the seemingly random (and convenient) twists that helped steer the story to its conclusion, and the instant attraction that A. felt for Rhiannon (she was a sweet girl, but I don't quite understand what made A. want to start breaking the rules the moment he meets her), nothing bothered me as much as the underlying agenda.  For example, A. is a different person every day and yet he expected Rhiannon to be romantic with him whether he was male or female. Any hesitation she had of kissing him when he was female was hard for A. to understand because “love is love” and, according to A., being attracted to one gender is wrong.  I understand what the author was trying to do, but I think that in trying to come across as non-judgmental, he failed and became borderline preachy--diverging from the story and making it difficult to get back on track.

The bottom line is that Every Day is a fascinating and thought-provoking story that kept me reading despite any misgivings I had along the way; it's something that I would recommend because of the many possibilities for discussion.  But I would have enjoyed the book more if the author was just giving the reader something to think about instead of needlessly pushing his own view.  
Memorable quotes:
"The ocean makes its music; the wind does its dance. We hold on. At first we hold on to one another, but then it starts to feel like we are holding on to something even bigger than that."

"Self-preservation isn't worth it if you can’t live with the self you’re preserving."

"We all want everything to be okay. We don’t even wish so much for fantastic or marvelous or outstanding. We will happily settle for okay, because most of the time, okay is enough." 

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating concept this one. But I think the attitude if the main character at the reluctance of the girl he wants would have turned me off. Say what you will, but most people still want to be physically attracted to the person they've fallen in love with. And if you're into men or vice versa, suddenly being the other sex is not going to work.

    Sounds like a great effort on behalf of the author with a clumsy execution. You still have to be realistic about such things. But I have to admit....this story intrigues me.