No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015/36: Every Day -- David Levithan

The body is the easiest thing to adjust to, if you’re used to waking up in a new one each morning. It’s the life, the context of the body, that can be hard to grasp. [loc. 71]

The nameless, genderless narrator ('A') of Every Day wakes up in a new body each morning. It might be male or female, black or white, overweight, ill, blind, suicidal ... However, it will be sixteen, and it will be in Maryland, USA. A's life has been like this for as long as they can remember (which may be considerably more than sixteen years: it's hard to tell). Every day is a challenge; every day is a new life. "The only way I can navigate through my life is because of the 98 percent every life has in common." [loc. 926] Well, every teenage life in America ...

One major downside of A's condition is that, when A meets Rhiannon (the girlfriend of an arrogant lout named Justin, whose body A wakes up in one morning) and falls in love, there are ... complications.

Every Day is a teenage love story with more obstacles than most. It's also a profoundly human story about the similarities of different lives, the artificial nature of gender, race and class distinctions ("There were days I felt like a girl and days I felt like a boy", loc 2786), and the human urge to have one's life known, recognised and accepted by another human being. What would A do to stay in a single body? Can Rhiannon love an individual who will be a different person -- at least from the outside -- every day?

Soul transference, or body-swapping, is a hoary SFnal theme (Wikipedia quick ref): if you include possession (demonic or otherwise), it's a trope that goes back thousands of years. Levithan doesn't explain the mechanics of A's condition, but he does explore a plethora of variations on the theme. Can A change someone's life? Do A's unwilling hosts remember A's presence? Is A doomed to be a lonely drifter, living in the moment, forever? Is the body just a vessel? Can A 'make a deal with God', as that song that plays again and again on car radios suggests?

I really liked Every Day: it's funny, painful, incisive and well-observed. I especially liked the ending, which was surprisingly low-key and not what I had expected. Tempted to read the companion volume, Another Day, which tells Rhiannon's side of the story. Also tempted to read Levithan's other novels -- YA, yes, but I enjoyed Dash and Lily's Book of Dares too, so that's a 100% success rate thus far.

... Gosh, he's written a lot ...

Here's A on depression:

Some people think mental illness is a matter of mood, a matter of personality. They think depression is simply a form of being sad, that OCD is a form of being uptight. They think the soul is sick, not the body. It is, they believe, something that you have some choice over. I know how wrong this is. When I was a child, I didn’t understand. I would wake up in a new body and wouldn’t understand why things felt muted, dimmer. Or the opposite – I’d be supercharged, unfocussed, like a radio at top volume flipping quickly from station to station. [loc. 1355]

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