Did you ever want to live in a different body? What if you’re not guaranteed the same body every day? David Levithan creates a whole new, yet familiar, world in Every Day that long time Levithan fans and new readers alike will relish. Every Day is a contemporary novel that navigates the tight, socially constructed maze of gender to an end that offers a whole new idea about what makes a person a person. This contemporary story does not render itself as a stereotypically moralizing tale lecturing young people that “it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” Rather, this novel searches for satisfying answers about sexual attraction and the authenticity of human identity – questions that I think are of great importance to anyone in any stage of life.
The novel, narrated by a 16 year old non-gendered spirit named A, explores the challenges of life in multiple bodies that live through an array of teenage experiences: finding good friends, avoiding bad friends, jealousy, drug use, sex, suicide, the straight edge lifestyle, living with a smothering or loving or abusive family, the personal desire for freedom, the effects of depression, finding personal happiness, religion, and of course, love. The novel addresses just about everything with unrepentant honesty.
The narrative immediately startles the reader with a cognitive dissonance about the authenticity of gender and the body. A, a non-gendered spirit, lives in a new person’s body every day for exactly 24 hours. This reality is something that A cannot escape and has always known about his or her existence. A’s characterization puts the reader in an interesting position of interpretation: A simply has no gender. This is tough for us as readers because in the English language we only have masculine and feminine pronouns to describe people. The most important thing to understand is that A is not interested in “typical” boy things or girl things and is not confused about his or her own sexuality or gender – A is interested in what is interesting to A.
After grasping the fact that A has no gender, we are hit with another complication. What can make A’s identity more complicated despite the fact that A has no gender? Because A falls in love with Rhiannon, a heterosexual girl who is quite attached to her emotionally abusive boyfriend. The plot revolves around A pursuing Rhiannon whilst in different bodies. While the plot heavily employs a romance aspect, which is typical in YA literature, it is refreshingly different. The reader will have to identify with or react to A in a much different way than a “normal” relationship between two explicitly gendered and typically heterosexual teens in YA literature. Furthermore, the prose in this novel is straightforward and not convoluted with flowery language. This style is essential to getting the message of the novel across since it is already hard enough to fully grasp the fact that A has no gender. The language is very realistic and concise, but descriptive enough to successfully illustrate A’s intense feelings. Furthermore, the pace of the book literally depends on what kind of day A is having – which is interesting because the novel really does seem to draw you into the everyday life of A this way.
I found Rhiannon’s character to be believable, despite the fact that she seems to fall for A and accepts A’s identity fairly quickly. Rhiannon’s inner struggle to know what A initially “is” and what A “is not” and what A actually “seems to be” back to what A actually “is” pulled me through an empathizing and startling journey of what is real and unreal about human identity. It does not seem to matter the gender of the reader because the reader will empathize with Rhiannon’s discomfort and confusion on not knowing who, or what, A is. I certainly was confused. This is what makes the novel so effective and memorable: regardless of whether or not we identify with Rhiannon’s gender or sexuality, the reader can empathize with her confusion throughout the novel. We as readers and Rhiannon are conditioned on how we “should” act around an outwardly gendered body, but most certainly not a non-gendered body, let alone a spirit. Each reader will have a different interpretation of A’s “true” or “initial” gender that is guaranteed to be challenged or changed at least a few times over the course of the story.
Even though the climax left me reeling from shock, the resolution of the book did not satisfy me because it didn’t answer my questions about A’s life. The narrative gives the reader enough insight into A’s life at the moment, but nothing about A’s future or whether or not A can somehow change his or her life. However, I am satisfied that I know what A wants for Rhiannon and what Rhiannon wants for A. This book was not written to resolve gender issues, so it is unfair to harshly criticize the fact there were things left unanswered. A’s life may be confusing, but A’s humanity truly shines through the spirit despite lacking a true body. Overall, Every Day is a greatly written stand-alone book that is relatable and accessible to any reader.