"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Monday, May 11, 2015

Review #22: Every Day, by David Levithan

I read Will Grayson, will grayson the other day, and developed a little bit of a crush on David Levithan. (Is it dorky that I get crushes on authors the way that other people get crushes on movie stars?) So I went to my library's website to see what I could download, found Every Day, and blew through it over the course of a couple of hours.

Told in a first person narrative, Every Day is the story of a boy named A who wakes up each day in someone else's body. He gets one day to live as that person, and at midnight, he vanishes in to another person's life. It's an interesting concept, how to live a life without changing it too much, and it brings up some unanswerable moral questions. What do you do when the body you're inhabiting is craving a drug that your mind knows could be fatal? Do you let the body win? Or do you let the mind - your mind, not the body's mind - win? Will one day be enough to change the addiction? What do you do when the body you're in is suicidal? Do you step in and try to prevent the death? Do you leave it up to the fates? If you aren't in that body any more, what can you even do?

And what happens when you fall in love? 

Because eventually it's bound to happen, and one day, A falls in love with Rhiannon after waking up in the body of her boyfriend Justin, and he can't get her out of his mind. So he seeks her out, each day in a new body. Rhiannon is disbelieving at first, of course, because it's a preposterous idea, but eventually she sees him in there, hidden behind the eyes of high school wrestlers and Goth art students, the class nerds and the popular girls. But how can a love like that last? Never knowing where he is, or even who he is, knowing he will always leave? Every day, A wakes up in a different body, sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes fat or thin or beautiful or ugly or black or white or purple. Sometimes he can get to Rhiannon and sometimes he is four hours away, with no way to get even a message to her, so she's left wondering every day if this is a day she'll have him, her life constantly on hold for something that can only last a couple of hours at a time. A and Rhiannon fight with everything they have to make it work, an impossible love in an untenable situation. It's heartwarming and heartbreaking, hopeful and hopeless all at once.

I want to mention Levithan's treatment of mental health in the book. More than a few times, A wakes up in the body of a person who is struggling with depression or body issues or drug addiction. He handles it with exquisite grace, saying that when he was younger, he would wake up and couldn't understand why things felt "muted, dimmer. Or the opposite - I'd be supercharged, unfocused, like a radio at top volume flipping quickly from station to station." He says that he finally realized that these feelings were "as much a part of the body as its eye color or its voice". He makes a very firm statement that it's the body that is sick, not the soul. He talks about how it takes "uncommon strength" to live with those feelings, and how he has seen that strength in many of the bodies he's inhabited. Every Day is a YA book, aimed at teenagers, and I think it's so important for kids to read - and understand - that if they are feeling muted or supercharged, dimmed or unfocused, it doesn't mean that there's something wrong with them. I saw the same treatment and care of this topic in Will Grayson, will grayson, and any review would be remiss if it didn't commend Levithan for tackling this topic with such a skillful hand.

"I want love to conquer all. But love can't conquer anything. It can't do anything on its own. It relies on us to do the conquering on its behalf."

Every Day is set against a wholly unique backdrop, but in the end, it's a simple love story. As A says, "It's as simple as that. Simple and complicated, as most true things are."

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