Every Day – David Levithan

Post 79

After reading (and reviewing) Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares which was co-written by David Levithan, this book came up in the Goodreads recommendations. Every Day was published in September 2013 and is in many ways a typical YA novel, with a touch of Fantasy. This is the main book of the Every Day series, which currently consists of two other books: Six Earlier Days, which is a short story that chronicles a few days in the main character’s life before the main book, and Another Day, which is a retelling of the book from the perspective of the female main character Rhiannon.

The premise of the story is original but also quite difficult to explain, so stick with me on this one. The main character is A, a 16 year-old who wakes up every day in a different body. A is sometimes a boy, and sometimes a girl depending on what body he/she wakes up in. When the clock strikes midnight, A is torn from the body he/she was inhabiting and wakes up the next morning in a new one. A has learned to live with this and follows three specific rules:

Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

To say that A is happy about this is maybe a step too far, but A has accepted that this is what life is for him/her. Until the day when he falls in love with Rhiannon. A inhabits the body of Rhiannon’s boyfriend Justin and they skip school and experience an amazing day together in which A falls head over heels in love with Rhiannon. The next day, A wakes up in a girl’s body but feels still so drawn to Rhiannon, that he breaks one of his rules and goes to visit her. Over the next few days, in each of his bodies, he visits Rhiannon and manages to convince her that he is A and that he in fact wakes up in a new body every day. Rhiannon is very hesitant about this, especially since A declares to be in love with her since that first day. She is stuck in a co-dependant relationship with a bad boyfriend and on top of that, she has trouble accepting A when he is in a female body. Eventually however, they date for a brief period of time.

But that is when trouble really starts, since one of the guys that A inhabited remembers parts of what happened to him and claims to have been possessed by the devil. A doesn’t really take it seriously at first, until he/she realises that the stories are really gaining momentum and that there is a priest behind it all keeping things going. A tries to reason with the boy, and eventually agrees to meet up with the priest. That is when A realises there are more people like him, and that the priest is in fact one of them. Only the priest can do the one thing that A can’t and really wants to do: the priest can inhabit the same body for as long as he want and isn’t forced to wake up inside someone else every day. On the one hand, A desperately wants to be able to do this, so he/she can stay with Rhiannon. But on the other hand, A doesn’t want to do this because it feels like he/she will be killing the person that was already there.

I wake up thinking of yesterday. The joy is in remembering; the pain is in knowing it was yesterday.

In the end, A wakes up inside the body of a smart, kind boy. He/she goes on one final date with Rhiannon, allowing the boy to remember this. That way, the boy will wake up the next day, remembering the date, and A hopes this will lead to the boy falling in love with Rhiannon and making her very happy (which A feels she deserves). A informs Rhiannon, and the next morning, A starts to run by taking the bodies he/she inhabits further and further away.

Interesting and original, right? I loved the idea, and therefore I had fun reading the book. But when I really thought about it later on, I found so many problems and flaws that my appreciation for the book decreased.

  1. I had a lot of trouble believing in the genderlessness (is that even a word?) of A. I experienced him as a decidedly male character and every time A inhabited a female, I still saw him as male. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that in the first and the last chapter he was male and that Rhiannon clearly sees him as male as well. But still, David tried to make a point with his book about how gender doesn’t matter and that it’s what inside that counts. But in my opinion,he failed as I constantly experienced A as a male character.
  2. He fell in love with Rhiannon after one day. Granted, I do think love at first sight is possible, especially with someone like A who would be very adept at reading people. But my problem is with the fact that he just expects Rhiannon to accept this and love him back. Rhiannon is always the same person to A, but to Rhiannon, A is always someone else. A cannot just assume that she sees him/her for who he/she is inside every time. Also, A is constantly proclaiming how much he loves her and wants the best for her, and that also bugged me a little. A is still a teenager, yet he claims to have fallen in love at first sight and that it will be forever. (Yes, I know this is often the case in YA, it’s something that bothers me every time)
  3. The moral lessons and truths that David Levithan tries to force on us in his book. I’ve already talked about the moral that says it’s what’s on the inside that counts. But there are also countless others, like: addiction is not a physical thing, but an emotional one. And then there’s the moral about depression: how it’s mental and so hard to deal with. This is true, but why the need to put it into an already complicated YA fantasy novel? Sidenote: if A’s mind takes over these bodies, why is he being affected by the mental problems of the bodies he inhabits? David Levithan also makes grand statements about human nature and religion – A voices moral opinions about nearly every subject.
  4. The ending just felt so wrong to me. The beginning of the book explains A, then it’s about the relationship between A and Rhiannon and Rhiannon coming to terms with things. But then at the ending it’s like: there’s a threat, Rhiannon is better of so A runs. A little too quickly finished up for my taste, but I can live with it. What really bothers me is A saying: here is this boy, he will be good for you, fall in love with him. I mean, the nerve of that guy/girl! I understand that A wants Rhiannon to be happy, and that he/she thinks that Rhiannon will never be completely happy with him/her. But to then turn around and say, by the way I just woke up in this boy and I think he might be good for you: date him?! I just don’t understand, and that disgusted me. Can’t Rhiannon be single? Can’t Rhiannon take the time to mourn the loss of A? And most importantly: can’t Rhiannon find someone for herself? So much male ego there, it really put me off.

Let me finish up with one last remark: this was quite a heavy book. Like I said before, the writer uses the narrative to make some big statements about serious things. But besides that, A is also a very deep and serious character. Because he/she has lived so many lives, A is someone who knows people and sees things. This leads the writer to let A make great proclamations, making this a very quotable book. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but it did slow down my reading process, so it’s probably not a book for very young readers. It annoys me because I am no longer 16 and feel like it’s ridiculous that this young kid is saying things like this. But this probably wouldn’t bother 16-year-olds as much.

If you stare at the centre of the universe, there is coldness there. A blankness. Ultimately, the universe doesn’t care about us. Time doesn’t care about us. That’s why we have to care about each other.

Would I recommend this book? For the originality of the story, yes. For the major flaws in the book, no. So I would recommend it to experienced readers who are looking for something different. I wouldn’t recommend it to YA amateurs, because it might just turn them off the genre for good.

What did you think of this book? I’d love to know in the comments!

Happy readings,

Loes M.

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