Review of “Every Day” by David Levithan

What a creative plot line: “A”, age 16, has never occupied a single body for more than one day, ever. A therefore is not any specific gender, ethnicity, religion, or color; A takes on the shape and characteristics of whatever body is the host for the day. On different days, A is, among other things: a drug addict, a suicidal girl, a morbidly obese boy, a football player, and a mean and spiteful girl. This gives the author an unparalleled opportunity to make all sorts of social commentary.

As the story opens, A (whom I will refer to as a “he” for ease of discussion), wakes up in the body of Justin, an apparently cute guy but a total jerk. Nevertheless, Justin has managed to secure the affections of Rhiannon, a pretty girl who approaches him “tentative and expectant, nervous and adoring.” For the first time ever, A falls for someone else – i.e., Rhiannon, enough to want to see her again and again, regardless of the body he inhabits. Since all of the bodies A occupies tend to live within about a four-hour radius of one another, this is a possibility.

Interestingly, A observes that while Rhiannon recognizes him no matter what his exterior is, Justin doesn’t really “see” Rhiannon even though she looks the same every day. This is made yet more obvious when A actually becomes Rhiannon for a day. Justin doesn’t even pay enough attention to Rhiannon to notice she is different. (What might seem like a heavy-handed message in any other story is, thanks to Levithan’s clever story device, just part of the way we are made to understand how a being like A might perceive reality.)

A tries to displace Justin and establish intimacy with Rhiannon, but he really has no idea how difficult it is for Rhiannon to respond to him in a different form each day. When Rhiannon tells A she just can’t go on with a relationship like this, A comes up with a drastic solution. He knows Rhiannon will be not only his first love, but his only love. He is prepared to do the only thing he can, to honor that love.

Discussion: A gleans a lot of insight into the human condition by virtue of his peripatetic existence. First of all, he must constantly struggle to reconcile the needs of the body he occupies with his own presence and his own control of reason. How, for example, can he fight the drug user’s compulsive need for an addictive substance, and would it matter anyway if the host body resisted for only one day? Worrying about “changing” a host body is analogous for A to a time-traveler being careful about not altering history: if A makes too radical a move in someone’s life, would the repercussions be even worse?

In addition, he learns the effects – both good and bad – of different types of parenting, and he sees the prejudices people have toward appearances and gender orientation. He doesn’t understand the social distinctions resulting from these differences, because inside of the different bodies, A is still “himself,” no matter what form he occupies. Why don’t people look beneath the surface?

Leviathan doesn’t really provide an answer to these questions, but at least he poses them. This story is an excellent catalyst to get readers to think about social conventions.

Evaluation: This is a very good book, and a great choice for book clubs, but be prepared to be wiped out emotionally when you are finished!

Rating: 4/5

Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 2012

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34 Responses to Review of “Every Day” by David Levithan

  1. Sandy says:

    This book has me intrigued. Because I am a loser who can apparently only read 2 books a month, I don’t know if I will ever end up reading it, but I would be pleased if it were chosen for a book club.

  2. This one caught my eye from the moment I saw it. The premise is so different from anything I’ve read before.

  3. Bookworm1858 says:

    I love the idea of this book for a book club-I think it could generate some great discussions while also being an enjoyable read.

  4. zibilee says:

    I have the idea that this book would be really interesting to me, not only for it’s story, but for it’s observations. This author is constantly surprising me with the things he puts out there.

  5. I adored this book! Such a great idea, such great writing – and most of all, a really balanced and mature theme. Yes, A shows us how much outside appearance doesn’t matter – in certain contexts. In others, A’s adventures highlight how in some cases outward appearance does and will always matter. Rhiannon has trouble with some of A’s forms – especially A’s female ones, because Rhiannon is straight – and the novel never demonizes her or portrays her as weak or superficial for having problems feeling attracted to A.

    And even A has flaws – I know a lot of people were troubled by the obesity section of the story because they thought it was fat-shaming. And I was annoyed when A castigated the beautiful Beyonce form he was in for being so concerned with her looks. The novel showed how A had a different perspective – but one that was still limited in some ways by A’s own experience.

    • AnimeJune,

      Yes, interesting points! I admit I was somewhat surprised by the obesity section as well, but I think he explained his reactions pretty well, as having changed since he started seeing himself through Rhiannon’s eyes. And he said he felt bad about that. (Still, that was the part of the book that I think raised my eyebrows the most!) Re the Beyonce girl, I think he was making two points: one, as he said, was that teenage looks aren’t going to last forever, and he wished she would try to build a better foundation for the rest of her life. But also, I think for A, anyone focusing on appearance had to be an enigma to him! That said, I don’t think A was perfect either. He was, after all, only sixteen, and had led a pretty weird life! :–)

    • Amy @ My Friend Amy says:

      These are interesting points. I guess I also thought it was a little unfair the expectations he (I always thought of him as he anyway?) had for Rhiannon sometimes like when she was a little less comfortable being physically affectionate when A was a girl instead of a boy. Like…give the girl some time.

  6. Amy @ My Friend Amy says:

    This is definitely a great book for discussion!! I still don’t know exactly how I feel about it, but I do know it’s good for discussion and I’m glad I read it.

  7. Crazy! I’m going to have to look out for this one, it sounds really interesting.

  8. Trisha says:

    This sounds really good – and I’ve enjoyed the other Levithan books I’ve read, so points there.. I’ll have to add it to the wish list.

  9. I love emotional books and have thought about picking this one up a few times!!! I will be sure to read it!

  10. Jenny says:

    This sounds like something I’d be more likely to read in a book club than for other reasons. I don’t know. I like a high-concept book but this sounds pretty out there even for me — “out there” isn’t even it, it just sounds a bit affected. Putting on this complicated, crazy premise to make a point about Humanity, you know?

  11. Vasilly says:

    I loved this book! Do you think that teens would mind the social commentary without thinking that adults are preaching to them? I wondered about that but as an adult, all I could do was nod my head. I found the day where A is a drug addict very enlightening.

    • I felt Levithan skirted the preaching thing by having social observations just part of A figuring out who he was each day and what rules he had to follow so as not to let anyone know the person had been “taken over” by another spirit. It was a very clever way, I thought, to include a lot of preaching without preaching! :–)

  12. Well, you know I liked this one too. I liked your analysis and discussion of the issues involved in his unusual life!

  13. aartichapati says:

    I’ve not read this book and I admit that I am not sure whether I like or dislike the premise. I think I would get confused quite easily 😉 I really enjoy fantasy, but the science of this whole thing is making my brain spin. How did A just come to exist? How can he have any sort of personality? It just doesn’t make sense to me!

    Glad it’s good, though, and raises questions that need to be asked but can’t really be answered.

  14. claire says:

    I haven’t read anything by Levithan but this seems like a great place to start because the premise really intrigues me. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Jill.

  15. Intriguing! I haven’t read it, but how can A always be A if he is always changing? That makes me a little dizzy to consider.

    • Actually Levithan doesn’t explain a lot of things about “A” beyond saying that A doesn’t understand what is going on either! Levithan does a great job, in my opinion, of eliding those sorts of questions so he can get to the social commentary, which comes off sounding not didactic at all, but just a natural outgrowth of A’s always having to accommodate new bodies and new social situations.

  16. Ti says:

    The premise sounds interesting, I can see a book club having fun with it. It does sound like it would be a little hard to keep track of stuff though. Is that what wiped you out?

  17. Jenny says:

    I wondered how this was, and it sounds like a great book to jump start some discussions! I think I’ll definitely have to keep this one in mind.

  18. liviania says:

    I absolutely loved this one. I thought it was convenient that A always ends up in a close by body, but I was willing to go with it.

  19. Jenners says:

    Every review of this book makes me want to read it more. Sounds like the YA books I’m always looking for read (but not always finding).

  20. Ack! I borrowed this from the library, but didn’t get to it in time. Think I need to check it out again.

  21. Rachel says:

    This sounds great!

  22. I’ve been wanting to read this one soooo badly! Maybe I can convince my book club to read it 🙂

  23. bookingmama says:

    I must read this!!! Sounds compelling.

  24. Trish says:

    You do such a great job of describing this one–I haven’t really understood what it was about until now and I can see how it would bring up some really great questions. But you’re a tough critic! Curious what a 5/5 rating would be. 😉

  25. stacybuckeye says:

    This looks good and complicated. Maybe one I should save for a day when I can handle complicated.

  26. I think the author did a great job opening up a lot for discussion without giving the answers.

  27. Sophie says:

    The ending was unsatisfying because A (spoiler allert!) gives up Rhiannon but is willing to learn how to stay in the one body, despite knowing it is pretty much murder. Why would he bother if he just gave up his love? WTF??

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