Every Day: Negating Norms Naively

If souls existed, would they have genders? What would they say, if they could speak? What would they do, if they could travel? What would really happen if we could walk a mile in another person’s shoes, read their minds – a different pair of shoes, a different mind, every day. In his novel, David Levithan illustrates the life of a nomadic “spirit” known simply as “A”. Every day, A inexplicably wakes up in the body of a new person – never the same person, not necessarily the same gender, but always the same age as A. Unique, A lives with a strict set of rules he necessarily developed over time – for example, never interfere in either the life of the person he is temporarily inhabiting, or the lives of that person’s friends. These rules persevere – till he meets Rhiannon, a girl who not only causes him to forego his own stipulations, but also fundamentally changes his worldview. Suddenly, A ascribes to his life a goal that extends beyond surviving the day: starting simply as an attempt to tether himself to Rhiannon, it evolves into a quest to understand the humaneness of his atypical existence.
Just as A is unattached to any particular body, he (or she or it) is unattached to any family, any community, or any culture. Thus – unlike us – he lies outside of the norms of our society, and so is both placed in a unique position that no one, including the readers, can see from, and given enough ethos to comment on those “norms” without prejudice. First, he has no gender; however, as readers part of the norm, speaking about A is impossible without assigning him a gendered pronoun. In the scope of the novel, A has no knowledge of social stigmas, of the types of love or sex– heterosexual or homosexual, transgendered or not. So, the love story of the novel between Rhiannon and A is inherently unequal; neither can understand the paradigm of the other. Apart from revamping the young adult trope of a teen romance, this introduces a dichotomy between the body and its spirit, between inner and outward beauty. Simply, love is purer.
Most simply, perhaps, is that A’s uncomplicated understanding of his world is highlighted in the directness and frankness of his diction. In a paradigm devoid of definitions of sexuality, strict understandings of love, A has no need to speak in any way besides the bare meaning he is conveying. His descriptions are as clear and unpolluted as his sight. He begins, simply, with “I wake up”; he ends, then, with a similarly uncomplicated, uncreative sentence structure: “For the first time in my life, I run” (1, 323). Of course, the sparse nature of the diction implies a similarly restrictive, bare comprehension of the world; his diction hasn’t grown, and his limited interactions with others similarly block his own growth. Interestingly, the only real “growth” A has is only when he interacts, not with “humans”, but with his own “kind” possessing a human – at which point, the passive action of “wake” shifts to the proactive “run”.
Still, while his position keeps his understandings broader and simpler, it necessitates an almost absolutely black-and-white perspective of right and wrong, and good and evil. He is inevitably limited in his understandings of people’s relationships and the people themselves; for example, his stance on whether people are inherently good or evil seems firm. The way he describes being Vanessa Martinez, for example, is “It’s exhausting, trying to make a bad person act good. You can see why it’s so much easier for them to be bad” (212). Shades of grey seem non-existent. This same tunnel-vision syndrome – an inability to see the many complications a life in one body can yield – obscures Rhiannon’s prejudiced nature to him, as well. Because of the first-person narrative, we’re forced to see Rhiannon through A’s eyes.
But it is these very prejudices that make Rhiannon both relatable and significantly more realistic than A – unsettling because, as I read her dialogue, I become upset at her inability to break society’s guidelines of sexuality, even while I come from the same perspective. From her, again, we see the dichotomy of loving someone emotionally, but not physically. Because of the foil between her understanding of love and A’s, we get a clearer picture of our own viewpoint – we cannot divide the body from its spirit. The fact that that the two are inextricably linked serves as a sad portrayal of the reality of our society – one that the novel’s conclusion seems to indicate is not ready to be revamped.
But the realistic nature of his conclusion (his resolution) kept my moral center satisfied, in contrast with another novel about a nomadic force taking temporary control of a human body – The Host by Stephenie Meyer. The Host, unlike Every Day, gives into young adult genre tropes; romance wins out, and the couple get together, completely disregarding the humaneness of simply taking over the physical & emotional aspects of another. Every Day refuses to follow the trope; in Levithan’s novel, humanity wins over love, and it leaves a significantly less sour taste in the mouth. All in all, the book is incredibly successful and compelling; I love a text that makes me think and ponder the world around me, and through his use of a character that can explore and speak for a plethora of personalities, Levithan does exactly that. It made me question the structure of our society, worry that I could relate more easily to Rhiannon, the character whose constraints I wish I didn’t have, and yet hope that, just like A and his final journey to understand the point of his existence, we can change and evolve and explore to gain a clearer, better paradigm of the world – one that indeed delves to whatever lies beneath our skin.

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