David Levithan’s Latest YA Novel: Every Day

David Levithan is the king of boundary-stretching novel concepts. His first novel, Boy Meets Boy, busted the world of gay teen lit wide open with its hopeful and upbeat vision of a reality in which homosexuality is not only accepted but delightfully normal. The Lover’s Dictionary traces the course of a relationship via a series of dictionary entries. Written with YA novelist John Green (Looking for AlaskaAn Abundance of KatherinesThe Fault in Our Stars), Will Grayson, Will Grayson imagines what shakes down when two boys of the same age and with the same name meet—in a porn store. And his collaborations with YA novelist Rachel Cohn (GingerbreadShrimpCupcake)—Nick & Norah’s Infinite PlaylistNaomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares—have attracted legions of fans (and spawned a much adored movie). So it’s no surprise that his latest novel, Every Day, takes a bit of a risk regarding subject matter—and for the most part, it works.

To put it most succinctly, 16-year-old “A” is a soul without a body . . . or, alternatively . . . a soul with many bodies—each day, a different one. Every morning, he wakes up with a new identity, a new family, a new set of rules, and as A ages, so do the bodies he inhabits. On Day # 6005, he’s Kelsea Cook—a clinically depressed girl on the verge of suicide. On Day # 6007, he’s Ashley Ashton—a “top-to-bottom gorgeous” diva who could be mistaken for Beyoncé, on a bad day. On Day # 6025, he’s Finn Taylor, an obese boy the size of a living room couch. Female, male, gay, straight, transgender, Asian, Hispanic—there isn’t any physique and personality A hasn’t tried on. It has been this way ever since he can remember and the possibility of adopting a permanent identity, at least as far as A knows, is slim to none.

A sad existence, sure, but not one without the infinite possibility of making each day “his” own. With such a mind-bending set up, Levithan raises the inevitable set of questions: What would it feel like to live forever in the present? What is a soul without any identifiable future or past? Which actions taken, or decisions made, are ethically sound when acted upon if they’d unalterably impact his host’s life? Is it endlessly meaningful or terribly empty to experience love, breakups, friendships, success, over and over again without having the chance to savor or endure any aftermaths?

But rather than let his novel languish from being too far afield, Levithan brings it back down to earth by weaving a key ingredient: romance. During a 24-hour stint as a gruff, selfish boy named Justin, A falls in love with the undeserving Justin’s wide-eyed and noble girlfriend, Rhiannon. Her beauty and, at times, unwarranted belief in the natural goodness of people latch onto A’s heart and refuse to let go. At this point, even the most oblivious reader will see where this twist is headed (think a weird semi-hybrid of “50 First Dates” and “Memento”). Because A is a different person every day, how can a relationship with one girl in one town work, even if he does manage to steal her heart from Justin?

A’s earnest drive and boundless enthusiasm for trying to, first, reveal his predicament to Rhiannon, then convince her that a relationship might work, feels pleasingly poetic (signature Levithan) and surprisingly more believable than it might in a lesser writer’s hands (it also helps if you buy the premise hook, line, and sinker). Plus, when Rhiannon is confronted with various awkward situations (i.e. while she may love A’s “real” personality, she might not feel attracted to the body or sex of the person he’s become for the day), the two-sided point that physicality shouldn’t, but does, actually matter when it comes to love is driven resoundingly home.

Perhaps there are a few too many chapters devoted to describing the days A spends in the bodies of various inconsequential characters (not all of them are essential to the plot) and the subplot involving Nathan (a boy who attempts to track down A in order to get to the bottom of what he believes is the devil’s possession) could use a little more developing, but the push to find out what happens between A and Rhiannon will keep readers plowing agreeably through to the end. A definite crowd-pleaser.

To read the original post, please visit Letter Blocks: The B&N Parents and Educators Blog.

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