What if every day you woke up in someone else’s body? You are you, but also them; you have access to their memories, but also retain your own. This is A’s predicament in David Levithan’s clever and emotionally resonant YA novel, Every Day.
I don’t know how this works. Or why. I stopped trying to figure it out a long time ago. I’m never going to figure it out, any more than a normal person will figure out his or her own existance. After a while, you have to be at peace with the fact that you simply are. There is no way to know why.
Dispensing with the prickly question of how this works (or doesn’t) early on, Levithan dumps the reader into A’s life on Day 5994. He is 16. Today he is in Justin’s body. Justin’s not a particularly likeable guy and A figures that out pretty quickly. He admits: “I know I am not going to like today.”
A’s ability to access information from each person he inhabits allows him to live each day with relative ease, plus he always has an escape hatch because he knows that he will wake up as someone else the next day. Even if he wakes up in the body of an idiot, he knows it’s not forever. Justin is a bit of an idiot and that wouldn’t be such a big deal if it weren’t for Rhiannon. She’s Justin’s girlfriend.
…there’s something about her – the cities on her shoes, the flash of bravery, the unnecessary sadness – that makes me want to know what the word will be when it stops being a sound. I have spent years meeting people without ever knowing them, and on this morning, in this place, with this girl, I feel the faintest pull of wanting to know. And in a moment of either weakness or bravery on my own part, I decide to follow it. I decide to find out more.
Thus begins A’s relationship with Rhiannon. And as you might imagine, there’s nothing typical about it. There’s nothing typical about Every Day period.
A has spent his entire existence trying to keep himself separate from the person whose body he inhabits. His feelings for Rhiannon complicate his life in ways too numerous to mention; suffice it to say that every day becomes a challenge to see her, but first he somehow has to convince her of the truth of his strange reality.
In one sense, Every Day works as a terrific page-turner: will A and Rhiannon find a way to be together despite their terrific obstacles? After all one day A could be in the body of a hunky football player and the next he could be an overweight teenage girl. Will Rhiannon love him back despite his outward appearance? What is love anyway?
But I think this novel also works hard to be something more and in that way I think it will probably speak to teenagers everywhere. It allows us to inhabit the bodies of confident, beautiful teens and also depressed teens who wish themselves harm. We hang with straight teens and gay teens, teens with parents who smother them and parents who trust them. Each scenario allows Levithan the opportunity to show the reader his tremendous capacity for empathy. And it also allows us to see A – despite his lack of corpreal form – as the embodiment of what it means to be human.