REVIEW: Every Day (David Levithan)

downloadDavid Levithan is part of my cadre of ‘do-no-wrong’ authors, by which I mean I practically genetically predisposed to like each new book they release. Of that group of writers, he’s probably the one that most deserves it because I can honestly say that, objectively, I don’t think he’s ever written a bad book. Every Day is not his latest–that’s Two Boys Kissing, or Invisible, or… another one–but I can’t keep up. So Every Day it is.

The plot: A, the genderless, bodyless main character, wakes up every single day in the body of a new person. He can access their memories, but not their feelings. At midnight, he will move bodies. It’s painless, as long as he’s asleep. He will awake in the body of someone the same age. He will not move far, geographically. Usually he does his level best to keep his head down, respect the persons life (he does their homework for them, sits their exams, makes sure that their friendships stay on track) until he meets a girl named Rhiannon, while inside the body of her thankless boyfriend. And he falls in love.

After that, it becomes a daily task of trying to return to Rhiannon, helping her to understand him, and trying to make their lives work. Throw into that the daily task of figuring out his new lives, and a boy named Nathan who thinks the day A spent in his body was demonic possession.

Much like More Than This by Patrick Ness that I read recently, this is essentially a drama hooked around a science-fiction concept. The mechanics of the actual fantastical element are almost literally irrelevant. Far more relevant is the perspectives this offers A on people, love, and the lives he inhabits. I hesitate to describe the book as a ‘teen drama’ because that has overtones of Hollyoaks, but Levithan has always been incredibly adept at creating the sense of teen love, that strange fusion of selfish lust and grand magic, simple scrabbling desire against a sense of ancient narrative. He’s even better at it when he’s writing queer–and I’m saying queer because this is probably the truest genderqueer novel I’ve ever read, given A’s complete genderlessness, without ever once feeling politicised.

Where it does feel politicised, slightly, is Levithan’s choice of bodies to inhabit. They run the gamut of minority groups (or stereotypes, depending on which GoodReads reviews you read). There’s gay, transgender, illegal immigrant, obese, home-school, metalhead, geek… Whilst it does feel slightly box-ticky, it doesn’t cause me much of a problem. If he has an agenda, it’s a good one, and his writing is strong enough to imbue every character with a sense of reality rather than sock-puppet issue (apart from the obese character, who is oddly treated quite coldly.)

The romance itself is endearingly strong without ever being unrealistically slushy. It has its problems, and they are explored. Likewise the moral implications of A’s leechlike life–he does his absolute best to never destroy their lives, and there was a brief point in the middle where I thought he was almost unrealistically moral, and thought I’d quite like to see an Irvine Walsh version of Every Day where a characters heart of darkness is let loose by the lack of consequence. Of course, the problem with this kind of novel is it’s all going to come down a satisfying ending and Every Day, nearly completely manages it. Not so you’ll be happy, but definitely so it’s right. And, as Levithan always does, by that point you’ve fully dispensed with the machinery of the story and slipped full into heartstring tugging. No-one does emotional connection without the slushiness quite like Levithan.

A resounding four and a half stars out of five for the book, giving me a really strong run of reading recently. That half star could probably have been saved with one extra chapter too. A meets Rhiannon in the first chapter, and abandons his routines of non-involvement. From then on, he’s making choices for himself, which makes his ‘pre-Rhiannon life’ a bit of a missing puzzle piece that is, essentially, told but not shown.

But for all that, a wonderful, wonderful book, fully recommended. And like I said, Levithan can do now wrong.

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