Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012
Every Day by David Levithan is “what if” story that is a fantasy of sorts that doesn’t bend to the tropes of that genre. The premise is simple: what if you had no body. You are still a distinct individual with feelings, memories, and a personality but every day you wake up in someone else’s body. For A, this isn’t mere speculation it is his existence. Each morning A wakes up in a new body. It might be male or female, it could be any ethnicity, it could be any sexual orientation, it might have any number of problems but it is always relatively close to A own age and it is never the same body twice. This has been A’s existence since he was an infant and he has learned through many hard years to not form lasting relationships with anyone around him. He sticks to that philosophy until he meets Rhiannon and suddenly his hard earned experience doesn’t matter and he finds himself drawn to Rhiannon no matter whose body he is.
Every Day is a novel that tells an engaging, highly emotional story that is rife with the extreme emotional shifts of a teenager. Take that as you will but there is a lot of very intense emotion in this novel, emotion made heavy with the sort of passion only teens can really express. Throw in some rather weighty philosophy from a boy who is never the same person twice and you get a novel that can be a little bit weighty at times though it never quite verges towards overbearing. I’m not one to frequently comment on other reviews of but from what I’ve looked at reviews tend swing into two camps that absolutely love Every Day and those who find A’s strong attachment to Rhiannon and willful manipulation of his host’s lives rather creepy. I mention this because I think both reactions are completely valid.
We as readers can’t help but view A through the filter of our own human experience. If we judge A by the standards of our existence than it is very easy to cast his actions, intentional or otherwise, in a very negative light. This view is reflected in the novel itself when former host of A’s speaks out about being possessed by a demon, an action which gains the victim national attention. But the question I think that novel is really asking is what it means to be human. Can we, humanity, be who we are if aren’t grounded to our physical being? We can sympathize with A because his basic plight is one most of us has gone through but when we realize that sort of massive wake his passing leaves in the lives of his host bodies our opinions of A shift. But how far should they? Every Day isn’t a novel about why or how A does what he does but rather a novel the feels primarily about how we as readers react to what A does. It isn’t a novel about acceptance or tolerance but rather about questioning the very core our own identities.
I won’t lie, the trans-humanist in me geeks out about this book. While most sci-fi novels set in a posthuman future take for granted that our perceptions of humanity will change and that our relationships with one another will shift in meaning when our society exists beyond the bounds of the physical self very few novel’s I’ve read take time to examine that shift in great detail. While Every Day isn’t a science fiction novel, A’s predicament is never explained, it does illuminate the difficulties in unraveling the great mysteries of the human identity and experience when untethered from a distinct physical body. Even more fascinating is that the novel doesn’t actually answer those question. Every Day leaves those conclusions to the reader. While marketed towards the young adult audience Every Day is a novel that adults can certainly enjoy as well. It is unique in its market, defying the conventions of genre and showing a spark of creativity in a field saturated with vampires, werewolves, and dystopian societies.