March 8, 2013

Every Day



by David Levithan

The concept presented by Every Day intrigued me enough, and I would still probably pick it up even if I didn't read (and enjoy) Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary a couple of years back. My interest was piqued not entirely by the development of the story, but by how it’s supposed to end.

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There’s this being – a soul? a spirit? something – called A who inhabits people’s bodies for a day. Just for a day – legally speaking, the entire 24 hours of it. I am guessing the name is A because this something is supposed to be genderless, but I will ascribe a gender – male – to him considering what happens in the story: he flits from body to body for as long as he can remember, taking only bits and pieces of memories with him and no attachments whatsoever, until he wakes up in the body of 16-year-old Justin and meets his girlfriend, Rhiannon. It isn’t rocket science to see that A, while in Justin’s body, will inadvertently fall in love with Rhiannon. There’s the conflict.

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Personally, I don’t buy love-at-first-sight stories. You don’t go and fall in love with someone you’ve just met – you just don’t. I believe more in the beauty and strength of a love that grows and is nurtured over time. I remember one of my favorite passages from David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten which reads:

But seriously... well, love has got to be based on knowledge, hasn't it? You have to know someone intimately to be able to love them. So love at first sight is a contradiction in terms. Unless in that first sight there's some sort of mystical gigabyte downloading of information from one mind into the other.

So in the first chapters of the book, I hit a snag right away.

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image from we heart it

But the novelty of Levithan’s idea wasn’t entirely lost on me. I was still interested to know what kind of people and personalities A would subsequently inhabit after meeting Rhiannon; I wanted to know the things he would do – and to what extent, knowing how doomed their story must be from the get-go – in order to make things work with her; I wanted to further read about the rules, if any, regarding his transfer from one body to another. While the storyline is bereft of explanation as to the how and why of A’s existence, and the reader is forced to swallow things as they are and how they stand, I found that the scarcity of justification was no big deal, really. I’ve seen Quantum Leap episodes in my childhood and I’ve read Anne Rice’s The Tale of the Body Thief a few years back, so switching bodies or inhabiting someone else’s isn’t something difficult to accept – even sans the explanation. What sustained me throughout the story was how A adapted to each body and personality that he woke up as every day – imagine waking up and seeing that you’re a three-hundred-pound guy, or that you’re the most beautiful African-American girl in school, or that you’re suffering from depression and toying with the idea of suicide – and how it will eventually play out with Rhiannon.

What I liked most about the book is the fact that while A isn’t exactly human, his actions show that he tries to be. Human, and humane. While he was conflicted between his love for Rhiannon and his respect for the people whose bodies he had no choice but inhabit for a day, at the end of the day, he knew what had to be done. His love for Rhiannon may have driven him to “use” the bodies to give in to his whims, but when presented with a solution that would mean staying and finally being with Rhiannon, he realized that it can never truly be as simple as it seems. He may have been selfish, one day at a time for each person that he was, but in the long run, he was actually the selfless one.

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The word “access” – as in, “I tried to access Justin’s memory” or “Accessing Nathan’s memories, I found that…” – drove me crazy. It was too… technical for such a paranormal situation. A is a paranormal something, yes? Levithan could have come up with a word way better than that!

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Yes, I liked how it ended. Because it was proper and it was the only way that it could have ended.


Book Details: My own, trade paperback, bought from Ingga, who bought it brand-new from MIBF 2012 :)
Rating: ★★★

2 comments:

Peter S. said...

What a wonderful review, Monique! I haven't read a novel by David Levithan, and I've always been curious about his works. He's one of those novelists who come up with LGBT fiction for young adults, right?

Monique said...

PETER: Thank you! :)

I honestly don't know if Levithan writes LGBT Fic for young adults. This is only the second time I've read anything he's written. I might look that up some more, though. :)