Jul 14, 2015

[Books] Every Day

One of the first books that I read after getting a Kindle was Boy Meets Boy, a rather poignant young adult romance piece by David Levithan that was charming even if a little idealistic in its presentation. There the author dreamed up a small town that openly accepted the LGBT community and thus their drama was pretty much normal teenage drama when you get down to it. I never got around to reading more of his books, but it was certainly a title that I kept in mind.

Then came along Every Day, which became quite popular across the young adult segment and not necessarily just the LGBT teen segment at that. I put off getting a copy for myself for a while since my reading queue is full enough as it is, but of course an Amazon Kindly Daily Deal eventually came my way and I ended up getting the title.

This was a rather different take on things that felt a bit more science fiction in flavor but still with Levithan's skill at capturing young love. But the nature of our protagonist here is really what made things pretty jarring and unique and thus probably a large factor of its popularity.

Synopsis: Every Day is a young adult novel of a sort written by David Levithan. The remained on the New York Times Bestseller list for quite a while and appears to be the beginning of a potential series of books.

The story is told from the perspective of A, what we can probably call a personality of sorts that jumps from body to body day after day. A has never had any control over this process - A just knows that every morning he (although we doesn't really have a gender in the traditional sense) will wake up in a new body that roughly matches his age. This has been going on since the day he was born and now at approximately 16 years old, he's gotten pretty used to the routine. He is able to access the memories of his host body as needed in order to keep up appearances and he has long adapted a code of doing his best not to disrupt the life of his host as much as possible.

But that changes when he wakes up in the body of Justin, who seems to be a generally disagreeable person. While occupying Justin, he ends up deciding to break his rules for once and to show kindness to Rhiannon, Justin's girlfriend, but giving her a day when Justin is all sweet and treats her better. And this one day leads A to feel like he's falling in love with Rhiannon - but what to do once the day ends? Thus begins A's adventure to try and find Rhiannon again and try to woo her despite the fact that every single day he changes. One day he's a painfully beautiful girl while the next he's the son of a very religious set of parents.

First up, Levithan's past works with LGBT-related stories really comes to shine here as he shakes up everything and presents us with a character who is pretty much untethered from the gender binary that the average person is trained to believe in. When you have a consciousness that is not tied to a body, can you still define the person's gender? And while he doesn't spend time exploring this concept alone, the implications of this lack of body identity are noticeable all throughout the book. Just because A falls in love with Rhiannon doesn't necessarily make him male after all - that just tells you the sort of person he loves and that's it.

Then we get to the more obvious contention here - can you make a person fall in love with one's character and personality alone and not get distracted by physical appearance? And it's a really good question for as much as a lot of people say that looks are not a primary consideration in relationships, it's still unsettling to deal with a completely different person every single day. And while A's odd ability seems to be generally limited to a particular geographical area, it still means that on many days he actually wakes up significantly far away from Rhiannon and thus it's hard to make things work.

I do appreciate the fact that the book pretty much drops you right into the action. We start as Justin and we explore his life and we don't spend time demonstrating A's ability through other people. The story begins and ends with A meeting Rhiannon, in a manner of speaking, and this defines the entire narrative. It doesn't hold your hand and try to explain exactly what's going on - you just sort of pick things up as you go as you try to keep pace with A.

That said, a lot of the book still feels like a lot of aimless wandering where we only hear A obsess over Rhiannon over and over again. And while this is probably an apt way to capture the teenage brain, it can get a little tiring over time. After all, this is practically a love at first sight sort of story and A seems to put a heck of a lot of effort to meet a girl he only spent an afternoon with. It must have been a pretty powerful feeling to have gotten him to break his many rules about occupying a body after 16 years of generally being good. At least that's what the book wants you to buy into.

However there is the somewhat disturbing side to things that A starts breaking his rules repeatedly into order to be with Rhiannon. From a life of doing his best to not get noticed, he starts making his hosts do this and that and go well out of their normal routines including driving for 2-4 hours just to be with Rhiannon. And I'm not entirely sure why Rhiannon goes along with this soon enough despite how creepy this all can be.

Despite how strong he feels for Rhiannon, the book ends on an odd note that feels like a really blatant setup for a sequel and not necessarily a satisfying end to things. After so many elements being through about including a past host raising a ruckus since he tells the media he was possessed by the devil and instead A sort of drops everything and ends things on a whimper. I'm not saying we needed a fairy tale happily-ever-after style ending here. But I think we could have offered a lot more closure than we did here.

And that's what really soured Every Day for me, I suppose - the bad ending. There's so much build up and a generally slower pace to things only to have things end somewhat abruptly in a course of action that still feels a little strange. And so the book can only get 3.5 stories that A tells of his past lives out of a possible 5, although the bulk of the score is derived from the uniqueness of the premise and the daring presentation of an atypical gender identity.


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