In Paperback: Every Day
by David Levithan
Random House Children’s, 2013
Imagine waking up in someone else’s body. You experience the individual’s essence, memories, and personality. You can also control him or her, choosing between responsible living or misbehavior. The circumstances of what–and whom–tomorrow may bring are unforeseeable; a blessing and a curse.
Since coming into being, the gender-neutral spirit “A” has lived this remarkable reality. Each day brings with it a new identity, a new body. These days, therefore, are detached, each irrelevant to the last. Yet, beaded sequentially, they comprise the weeks, months, and years of a life. The narrator of Every Day (by David Levithan, author of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist), A offers glimpses through a fractured looking glass.
Every Day happens during the sixteenth year of A’s vicarious existence, which is spent in teenage bodies of corresponding age. Having lived as people of different races, religions and genders (as well as those struggling with afflictions), A is expertly empathetic. But our narrator’s delicate coexistence with others balances upon one vital assumption–that they awaken the following day without remembering the possession.
A tries not to disrupt the flow of these strangers’ lives.
I am wandering along the periphery. I am like the people in the Winslow Homer paintings, sharing the same room with them but not really there. I am like the fish in the aquarium, thinking in a different language, adapting to a life that’s not my natural habitat. I am the people in the other cars, each with his or her own story, but passing too quickly to be noticed or understood.
These experiences are compressed into 24-hour sketches; yesterday’s events, whether happy or sad, are severed from today’s consequences. But what happens when A falls in love? This most haunting aspect of life begs to be carried from one day to the next.
When A wakes in Justin’s body, our narrator isn’t impressed by the boy’s apathetic, disengaged character. The girlfriend he takes for granted, Rhiannon (who’s as sweetly sad as the Fleetwood Mac song), withers daily under his gruff demeanor.
For Rhiannon’s happiness, A decides to disrupt the flow. Hijacking Justin’s body (and personality), our spirit-guide spontaneously drives her to the beach. A has longed for a genuine connection with another and becomes enraptured by her. Once out of Rhiannon’s life, A craves her presence, and travels through different towns in Maryland (in different bodies) to see her.
Then comes A’s revelation to Rhiannon. Initially skeptical, she starts to believe after meeting several teens under A’s control. Cupid, of course, doesn’t discriminate. But can Rhiannon overlook her love’s variable weight, race, and gender? Worse, A will never know the joy of waking up to Rhiannon. Even intimacy is in questionable fairness to these host bodies. Ultimately, A worries that the struggle for permanence will lead to loneliness:
There [Rhiannon] is, chopping vegetables…unaware that I am staring at her with so much love. Outside our kitchen size bubble, the nighttime sings. I can see it through the window, and also see her reflection mapped out on top of it. Everything is in its right place, and my heart wants to believe this can always be true. My heart wants to make it true, even as something darker tugs it away.
“The hope tinged with doubt, and the doubt tinged with hope,” A and Rhiannon’s fate is only the main path of a twisting narrative hedgerow. We also explore the lives of everyone A becomes, which translates into a wide spectrum of circumstances, perspectives, and lessons. And while other writers might rest on their inventive plot, Levithan keeps his dialogue freshly in-step with readers’ growing investment in his characters.
Much of Every Day entertains the idea that there are others like A, with lives comprised of stolen days. Such a fun, spooky concept sparks curiosity, leaving readers to wonder, “Have I ever been possessed?” This is also Levithan tackling the insatiable human need to understand life’s enormity. He acknowledges the logical, but dwells on the mystical:
I have the potential to be the devil. But then I think, Stop. I think, No. Because, really, does that make me different from everyone else? Yes, I could get away with it, but certainly we all have the potential to commit the crime. We choose not to. Every single day, we choose not to. I am no different.
Angel or devil, Levithan’s hero aspires to be human. The real question is, how many of us deserve that honor?