Every Day by David Levithan
Every day I am someone else. I am myself–I know I am myself–but I am also someone else. It has always been like this.”
So you wake up, and you are happy. The next day you wake up and you are depressed. One day you feel ugly. The next day you look great and you’re on top of the world. Each of these feelings are you. Each day may be different, but still you wake up to the same people, in the same house, go to the same school, and make plans for what to do after school. For as out of control as you may feel, you at least have consistency. Your psychology may feel chaotic, but your physical presence is constant. It has always been like this.
But not for the character in Every Day by David Levithan.
Every day is different for this person. This person wakes up in a different body. The emotions may change like anyone else, but so does the body. One day this person is a female punk rocker. The next day this person is a male mathlete. For as chaotic as you may feel now, from day to day, what kind of chaos would this add to your life? What would it do to your identity?
1) You could never write anything down to gather your thoughts. Each morning you wake up someplace else, anything you wrote down would be somewhere far away with yesterday’s body.
2) You could never keep anything. Any gift you would ever be given, would be gone when you switch bodies.
3) You could never know if you are male or female. If you are always switching bodies, how would you know which gender you are? How would it feel? Or would it matter?
4) You could never have a name. Each day you take on the name of whichever body you inhabit. Would you name yourself in secret, even though no one would ever say it?
5) You could never have friends. If you made a connection with someone, they would be gone the next day. Anything you’d want to ask anyone, you’d have to find out in one day. There would be no such thing as ‘see you tomorrow’.
6) You could never fall in love. Or, if you did, you couldn’t have a relationship.
These are just a few facts and feelings that came up while falling through the compelling rabbit hole of Every Day. The last one is the key to a fantastic story–falling in love. When I first started reading I thought, “Yeah, yeah, you’re a different person every day, we need to understand other perspectives and welcome diversity into our lives.” But as amazing as that would be in a book (and is), Every Day gets even better. David Levithan creates a complete and satisfying story built around this premise and it’s one I found almost entirely unpredictable. I couldn’t figure out how this character could possibly make a romance work. He/she (because, again, we don’t know the gender) would be miles away in an unrecognizable body. Even if you could get to the person, you’d have to reintroduce yourself every time. What if you were a hot girl one day, and an ugly dude the next? Could the person you care for be attracted to you? People say it’s what’s on the inside that matters and this book truly tests that theory.
For all the switching of bodies, the author unfailingly makes you care for the characters you follow. Intensely. I don’t remember the last time I’ve felt such empathy, and part of that empathy came from vicariously living their lives with the changing days of main character. One day I was a drug addict and I could feel the painful pangs of addiction jumping off the page. Another day I was from a family of religious zealots, and I could see how that way of life was perceivably legitimate as any other to them. In this book you get the chance to see inside people. This book lets you step out of your own body to see what motivates other people on the inside. It’s a beautiful experience and I found it lastingly moving. More than once I’ve referred to the experiences of these characters to better understand the people around me, particularly people I previously didn’t understand.
In essence, what makes you you? This book is about motivations. What moves us as people? Why do we do the things we do, and are those things because of who we are or the circumstances around us? If you want to ask some big question, while getting lost in an amazing story, read this book! Every Day goes deep into this kind of identity asking, and reminds us that every day is a new day. Who are you going to be?
Reviewed by Georgiana D. CLP-Brookline