The main character in Every Day, the new young-adult novel by David Levithan (one-half of the team behind bestsellers like Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist; Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares; Will Grayson, Will Grayson) is both—and neither—boy and girl, and short one reference to gender on the back cover (which may be fixed by now, since the copy I read was a bound galley) remains ungendered, as he-she-it “A” wakes each day in someone else’s body.
Boy. Girl. Transgender (in one case). Straight. Gay. Fat (obesely, again, in one case). Addicted to drugs. Depressed. Musical prodigy. Runner. Mean girl. Metalhead. Single. Coupled. Confused. Homeschooled. En route to a wedding in Hawaii. Twins (each boy, one day after the other).
And in each body, “A” remains in love with a girl named Rhiannon, who he falls in love with while inhabiting the body of her boyfriend, Jason, on day 5,994 of his life going from body to body. (In a move straight out of Freaky Friday, “A” also ends up inhabiting Rhiannon’s body for a day.)
“A” wakes up each day in the body of a 16-year-old, since “A” is sixteen, and these people all live within a four- or five-hour radius of each other. “A” historically has adjusted to the body’s regular life, carrying out what would naturally occur in that person’s life on that day. But after meeting Rhiannon, “A” stops following his-her-its self-imposed rules. (“A” stops living the lives of the people he-she-it inhabits, just to get to wherever Rhiannon is).
“A” confesses what he-she-it is to Rhiannon, who, after a few days, is convinced is true. She is the only one who knows what “A” is, which gives “A” an unique perspective following the day he inhabits her. She remembers some things, but the things she remembers are fuzzy, as if she was there, watching, even though she knew she was in her body. Someone else was in control, she says, and she kind of knew, even though she didn’t know how she knew, that it was “A” who was in control.
Another person who “A” inhabits for a day, takes to a party, and abandons on the side of the road (had no choice; “A” does not control when he enters or exists a body), claims to have been possessed by the devil, and this slow-moving plot point does little to advance the real story, which is how to love when you cannot be there every day.
While superficially a story about how fluid identity can—and maybe should—be, Every Day is really a story about the transformative nature of love, and the lengths we will go to to be with the object of our affection. Which, if you are familiar with Levithan’s oeuvre, is a theme Levithan routinely—and expertly—explores (if you haven’t, read his The Lover’s Dictionary, another love story in which the gender of one-half of the couple involved in the love story is never revealed). Love without gender, where what matters most is how you feel when you’re together.
Every Day, by David Levithan. New York, New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012. 336 pages. $16.99, hardcover.
William Henderson is never far from his phone, where he is often tweeting (@Avesdad) or blogging (hendersonhouseofcards.com). He is a frequent contributor to Thought Catalog, and has been published in The Rumpus, Mental Shoes, Revolution House, Specter, and Used Furniture Review, among others. He writes a bimonthly column for Hippocampus Magazine, is a regular contributor to Peripheral Surveys, and published his first chapbook, Edgeways, through NAP, in 2011.