Every day A wakes up inhabiting a different body. This leaves him (A does not identify as a gender) in some sense without a self and making him unusually selfless for a sixteen year old as he aims to leave as little of a trace as possible in the lives of his host bodies. A can access his hosts’ memories, but not their thoughts and feelings. His hosts are always his age, and each new host is in relatively close physical proximity to his previous one. He has no control over these experiences and no idea why it happens or if there are others like him. When A falls in love with Rhiannon, he slowly begins breaking his rules to stay in contact with her, interfering with his hosts’ lives in pursuit of something he thought he never could have. In this pursuit, A discovers he might have an opportunity to take what he never thought was possible for him to have. Every Day, a YA novel by David Levithan,connects the different worlds of people’s personal lives beautifully with interesting commentary on gender that YA needs right now. However, I found the morality A develops regarding his body situation as well as the portrayal of romantic relationships in the novel uncomfortable.
As is usual with Levithan, the world and the writing are both beautiful and poetic. Through the connection A has with his hosts, Levithan portrays a beautiful look at similarities and differences in different lives, especially the role of bodies in these differences. It is also an interesting look at the connection between the self and the body. A has a permanent sense of self separate from his bodies. He says not hanging on to the lives of past hosts is important for this, and this reinforces his perceived role as an observer. However, he is more comfortable in some people’s bodies than others, which seems mostly tied to the personality of the host, but also is affected by the body. The blurry space between who A is as a person and with a body is brought up when A inhabits the body of a girl with mental illness: “I don’t imagine anyone at lunch will miss me – but maybe that’s just what Kelsea would think. Part of growing up is making sure your sense of reality isn’t entirely grounded in your own mind; I feel Kelsea’s mind isn’t letting her get anywhere near that point, and I wonder how much of my own thoughts are getting stuck there as well.” This is an extremely poignant and sensitive moment in the book. A’s generalizations about the nature of growing up exemplify his worldliness as a result of experiencing so many different perspectives. However, it is also an example of his extreme, almost unrealistic maturity.
There seem to be two competing narratives in the novel. In the first narrative, A gives a mostly sympathetic insight into different people’s lives and a look at how race, gender, socioeconomic class, and body type affect interpersonal interactions. In the second narrative, star crossed lovers fight the odds, attempting to overcome nature while A figures out what he believes his place is in the world and what he believes is right and wrong.
It is very jarring later in the novel, after such a sensitive and thoughtful characterization of so many people’s lives, when A inhabits a fat person and says “his size comes from negligence and laziness, a carelessness that would be pathological if it had any meticulousness to it. While I’m sure if I access deep enough I will find some well of humanity, all I can see on the surface is the emotional equivalent of a burp.” This passage initially shocked me and made me very uncomfortable. However, I think this reveals the selfishness A develops at this point in the narrative and the degree to which A is unsympathetic to his bodies and unconcerned about them at that point.
The comment about the fat person is particularly jarring because one of the most interesting aspects of the book is A’s observations of everyone. He identifies with everyone because he can be anyone, but he does not allow himself to identify as an identity. In some ways this is a coming of age novel, as A realizes the extent to which he can still identify as without hurting himself or those around him. Every Day forces the reader to confront ideas of identity, especially gender.
However, the way A eventually conceptualizes his role in the world is weird and uncomfortable. He falls in love with Rhiannon as someone who is in love with his body/host, which he confuses with himself. This gets revisited in the ending. There is not enough of a distinction for me between what is and is not acceptable in the conclusion A reaches about how much interfering for his own sake is acceptable and not enough attention is focused on the decision or the distinction. Instead, the attention is focused on his interference in other people’s lives. The conclusion comes full circle with the beginning of the novel in an unsettling way. In the beginning, A has an instinct to interfere, he experiments with how best interfering is done and with balancing it with his own desires, and then he interferes. While A interfering is clearly appropriate when he does it to get help for people who need help or to show a host’s peers positive aspects of the host, A’s interference in their romantic lives shows a troubling sense that A understands what they need better than they do themselves. He is not using his knowledge about people’s differences to improve people’s lives or understanding but instead as an excuse to do what he considers improving.
Despite my problems with the conclusion, I ultimately really like Every Day because succeeds at raising questions about gender, bodies, and differences in people’s lives in a way that is interesting to both adults and teenagers, and could expose both to new ideas about them. Fans of Levithan, Scott Westerfeld, love stories, or who enjoy fantasy or science fiction elements will enjoy it.