David Levithan’s Every Day has a central idea that is so simple and brilliant, that it’s hard to believe no one else has written that book already. It’s the story of A, who wakes up in a new body every day, for one day, since his (or her, there’s no definite gender) birth. He doesn’t get involved too much and just follows along the person’s normal routine until he jumps into the next person. That alone would make an interesting book. He’s sixteen when we meet him and just reading about him observing the people whose lives he joins is interesting enough. But then he falls in love for the first time, with a girl called Rhiannon and suddenly he has to live actively if he wants to enjoy this love. This is where the book becomes really interesting. It’s a really good book, well-written and with one of the best endings I could imagine because until the very end, it’s hard to see it coming. It plays with our expectations and I really enjoyed that. I try to keep it short because I do not want to spoil the book in any way, as I think it’s really worth reading.
One reason I enjoyed this book so much is that it drove home the idea of seeing things from different perspectives. A is forced to do that, so much that he sometimes doesn’t know what his own perspective is. He occupies all kinds of different people from different genders, ethnicities, social backgrounds and a big variety of character traits and while some of them dwell into certain stereotypes, overall the book offers a diverse range of personalities.
Another interesting aspect is how switching bodies means no real connections for A, which then also changes his views on life. He thinks he’s seen it all, because he has so many times, making him believe he knows how things work. And he has to figure out if that’s true and that certain connections might be useful after all, because if you’re in love, you don’t want to be all by yourself, you want to be connected.
There’s a passage when A is in the body of a boy whose family is very religious. A’s view on religion is that all the major religions are pretty similar: "The beliefs are almost always the same; it’s just that the histories are different." He goes on:
It’s only in the finer points that it gets complicated and contentious, the inability to realize that no matter what our religion or gender or race or geographic background, we all have about 98 percent in common with each other. Yes, the differences between male and female are biological, but if you look at the biology as a matter of percentage, there aren’t a whole lot of things that are different. Race is different purely as a social construction, not as an inherent difference. And religion—whether you believe in God or Yahweh or Allah or something else, odds are that at heart you want the same things. For whatever reason, we like to focus on the 2 percent that’s different, and most of the conflict in the world comes from that.The only way I can navigate through my life is because of the 98 percent that every life has in common.
Maybe you can see why I like that book so much. There’s something cynical about this point of view, but it is also an invitation not to focus on differences, to see the world through different eyes and recognize the things that connect us. It’s a powerful statement and it’s a sentiment that is repeated throughout the book.
The question of gender or sexuality is never an issue for A. He has seen all of it and it makes no difference to him if he’s a boy or a girl, if he’s homosexual or heterosexual or transsexual. At one point he is at a gay parade in Annapolis with the boyfriend of the person he occupies.
I don’t understand this at all. It’s like protesting the fact that some people are red-haired. In my experience, desire is desire, love is love. I have never fallen in love with a gender. I have fallen for individuals. I know this is hard for people to do, but I don’t understand why it’s so hard, when it’s so obvious.
In a way, even if you agree with A anyway (and chances are you do if you read this book – and this blog for that matter), but it is different when you hear him say it, because you want to believe that he knows more, that it is a universal truth that someone who has seen so many people and sees connections we don’t see in our “normal” lives knows is true.
Anyway, there is much more to the book, also about love and relationships, families and parents, depression and suicide, drug addiction and peer pressure. I highly recommend Every Day. It’s funny, sad, romantic, thoughtful and clever.