Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book Review: Every Day by David Levithan

It's not every day that you get to read a book that can be described as stunningly brilliant, but Every Day by David Levithan is, in fact, that book.

"We all contain mystery, especially when seen from the inside." (David Levithan)

Meet A.  Every day A wakes up in a new body and for 24 hours lives that person's life.  A does not know why and has no control over it.  It is simply the way things are for A.  It doesn't matter if the body is male or female, they just have to be around the same age and in the same geographic area.

The rules A has developed to cope are simple:
Don't get noticed
Don't make any decisions/changes that would affect this life
Don't get attached


Things suddenly change for A when one day, in the body of Justin, A falls in love with Rhiannon.

"And it's there, just out of my reach. A sound waiting to be a word. She is so lost in her sadness that she has no idea how visible it is. I think I understand her - for a moment I presume to understand her - but then, from within this sadness, she surprises me with a brief flash of determination. Bravery, even." (David Levithan)

Every day, each day as a new person, A tries to find a way to get back to Rhiannon.  A, who once had no reason, has found a reason.

Every Day by David Levithan is a brilliant concept for a book.  And in true Levithan style, it oozes with raw emotional power and, quite simply stated, some beautifully phrased insights.  A spends time in so many different people that he (or she) had developed a very mature, sophisticated insight into the human condition.  Drug addicts, abuse victims, religious zealots, vain cheerleaders and obese, awkward boys - A has embodied them all and Levithan finds a unique way here to tell their story and give them voice.  And because this is Levithan, he finds a unique way to get the reader thinking about things like gender identity and sexuality.

To me, the most beautiful part of this story was the fact that no matter what body A inhabited, Rhiannon could always tell it was him/her walking towards her because the soul was reflected in the eyes.  That doesn't mean she didn't have problems sometimes getting past the packaging, because she sometimes most definitely did - and this is where we learn so much about the human condition.  Our hearts may be willing, but sometimes even the deepest of loves can not get past our social conditioning.  At no time is this point more poignant then when A wakes up on the morning of their first official date in the body of an obese boy.  You heart will shatter into a million little pieces, but your head will also hang in shame because we all know that Levithan is speaking tremendous truth.

This is more than just a beautiful love story - and beautiful it truly is - there is also a bit of danger and intrigue as one of the bodies, Nathan, seems to have some recall that something happened and proclaims that he was possessed by the devil.  This path leads to the revelation that A may not be alone and may, in fact, be able to choose to inhabit one body for a long period of time.  The question is, although A may be able to take over a person's body, is it the right thing to do?  It is this revelation, and the face of evil that seems to deliver it, that forces A to make some important choices.

In the end, there are no real answers as to the how and why of A and this bizarre existence, but that is irrelevant to our story.  No, this is a stunningly brilliant look at the human condition, an aching portrait on the meaning of true love, and a genuine reflection on the concepts of self, perception, identity and more.  This is an award winning book waiting to stand at the podium and collect its awards.  This is the book we read about and talk about and pretend that, of course, we would never be like that . . . and then cringe as we remember the times that we were.




If I have any hesitations regarding this book, it would only be around the concept of voice.  A, our main character, has a very wise, sophisticated voice and I do question how much teens will see themselves reflected in it.  And yet, clearly, A has lived a 1,000 lives and gained such tremendous wisdom that it would be difficult for him/her to fall into the regular trappings of adolescence.  This book, more than any other, made me reflect on the criticisms I often hear surrounding John Green and the voice of his characters.  In the end, I decided it makes sense for the character and the breadth of his/her experiences and chose to embrace the journey.  Like Mr. Toad's, it's a wild ride.

There is an air of pathos that hangs over this love story in a vein similar to The Time Traveler's Wife, which I deeply love.  Buy it, read it, talk about it.  It is reach into your chest and pull your heart out brilliant.  5 out of 5 stars.

"Honesty, I'm just trying to live day by day."

Every Day by David Levithan will be published on August 28th by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

4 comments:

  1. I had the same thought about A, but I think the fact that he has lived so many lives gives him a way to be young and old, if that makes sense. I would be interested to hear what a teen would say. I will be giving this book to many people when it's released. It was such a beautiful look at love and what it really means to connect with someone.

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    1. I agree with your brilliance. I too am interested in some teen feedback. But in the end, it is still brilliant literature period.

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  2. I really want to read this. Interesting thoughts on the voice; it may be more relevent to a smaller segment of teens.

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  3. Your review was so awesome (I loved this book, the characters and the aching that A had for Rhiannon and his attempts to see her)and I too want to have my teen readers tell me what they think of this stunning book!

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