How important are the actions one carries out in a single day? Can everything be reversed? Or are some things so fragile that one day has the power to annihilate or change them forever?
David Levithan’s Every Day portrays the unique life of a 16 year old character named A, who possesses the unusual and daunting task of waking up every day in a different person’s body. Levithan never reveals the specific gender of A’s true self (I apologize for my repetitive use of “A”. I refuse to assign a gendered pronoun to this identity, a task that would put me at direct risk of falling into the societal norms Levithan suggests we erase). A doesn’t have a body and never has, so assigning a gender to the spirit or entity that represents A would create more anxiety within the inhabited body each day. Additionally, by making A gender neutral Levithan allows this story pertinence to all genders in the Young Adult Literature community. The interesting aspect of this tale, assuming one doesn’t find the daily mobility between bodies mind-blowingly enticing, unwinds when A experiences true love for a girl whilst residing within her boyfriend’s body. A never expects to find true love based on the circumstances of this unique existence. A stuck to a set of “laws” that would inhibit connections causing painful goodbyes. Upon meeting Rhiannon, all of these rules dissipate in their presumed importance as A attempts the uplifting task of gaining love from Rhiannon that could measure up to the love A’s soul felt for her. A’s everyday goal shifts from assimilating to fulfilling the wants of the inner self that longs for Rhiannon.
Levithan appeals to the Young Adult audience in countless ways through this hopelessly romantic novel. He presents the futile couple, held apart literally by the forces of the universe. Not even gender becomes a huge factor in the love they feel for each other, though Rhiannon struggles more than A, who states: “There were days I felt like a girl and days I felt like a boy, and those days wouldn’t always correspond with the body I was in…I had yet to learn that when it came to gender, I was both and neither.” Levithan doesn’t use extravagant vocabulary or dense sentences in this story. The conversational dialect and simple “boy/girl” usage helps the readers relate and learn with the characters. By making A applicable and not too omniscient, which the author could have easily done based on the knowledge gained by this unique life style, Levithan allows for struggle and growth alongside the protagonist. A is a genuine romantic, whether by nature or necessity, and defines love through the intangible because A can never fully represent a tangible entity. Levithan uses A’s unique lifestyle and moral determination to not fully impose life-altering acts upon the host as a means of demonstrating the good that exists within young adults, as well as an example on how one should go about finding their place in the universe. Even if you feel like your existence is worthless or unknown, Levithan offers hope that your body, thoughts, ideas, spirit, and soul do have a purpose in this universe. You may suffer A’s destiny and may never have the power to leave a tangible print on the world, but that doesn’t mean that your presence was created without purpose. If a body-less entity has the power to leave at least one mark on someone’s memory, so can you.
Structurally, Levithan identifies each new chapter with a number signifying the days A has woken up in a different person’s body. It is clear early on that there is tension between the body and the person inhabiting it. The reader knows that these two people or entities are not one in the same. This is crucial because A and the host must be distinguishable. The author depicts the body as a sort of shell that A takes over and “lives” within. I stress “lives” because for a while A believes his/her existence revolves around assimilating the lives of the host in order to not create footprints or a life of his/her own. This resonates with the young adult audience and genre because it touches upon the idea that many teenagers doubt whether the changes they make within the world will be beneficial or irrevocably detrimental. Teenagers often grant their existence more power than they realistically possess and therefore often feel like a disruption to their daily actions could actually cause irreversible problems within the lives of many.
If A acted on desires every day, with absolutely no regard to how these actions would affect the host, would this evoke a life-changing event? Most likely not, in around 6,000 lives A’s presence was inconsequential. However, A doesn’t like risking other people’s lives; well, until he/she finds a soul-mate worth fighting for. But, A has moral obligations that prevent a complete disregard for the hosts. This concept brings out the author’s question: what is it that truly shapes and determines who or what we are? This question, among others, does not officially get answered. This story is not about providing the reader with clear cut answers and a road map to live your life. It picks up more philosophical questions as it unfolds and forces the reader to begin identifying what type of person or entity you really are, underneath all of the physical stuff and the gender, what is your essence?
I love books that bring about more questions than answers and for that reason, among the physical versus metaphysical aspect, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a novel that goes deeper than the physical and defies stereotypical gender norms and identities. I think the one answer this story reveals is that love is not something that can be defined in purely physical or intangible terms. Gender alone doesn’t make love stronger and words and thoughts alone can’t keep love relationships functional, some combination or formula of duality must exist for that ungraspable, happy ending.