by David Levithan
What makes us fall in love–and what makes us who we are?
Those are the questions at the heart of this novel, which tells a thoughtful, touching story that will surprise readers with its sentient literary style and gentle feeling.
Everyone longs for human connection, but 16-year-old A.’s search for it seems to be a losing proposition. Every day, for as long as he can remember, he wakes up in a different body: sometimes as a girl, sometimes with a different ethnicity, sometimes with a different sexual orientation. He’s long recognized the futility of trying to create lasting relationships, but everything changes when he meets Rhiannon, a girl who makes him want things he’s never thought possible.
This story reminds me of one of my favorite TNG episodes with a similar concept, and A. also follows a sort of prime directive in his self-imposed policy not to interfere too much in his “host’s” life. He is, for the most part, a very likeable protagonist who doesn’t wallow in self-pity or maudlin emotion, and it’s interesting to see how skillfully the author retains A.’s sense of self and personality even within very different people in very different circumstances. One of my favorite things about this book is how we catch a glimpse of all the lives that A. touches; some of the manifestations are humorous, some of them are incredibly sad, and some of them are downright harrowing. There is also a tension and urgency in the story from various different sources, most notably in the form of someone who is relentlessly pursuing A. for his own dangerous reasons.
The things that some more logic-hobbled readers (heh, I am coining that term!) won’t like about this book are precisely what I do like about it. I like the book’s more quiet, philosophical bent, and I actually like that we don’t get any answers as to why this happens to A. Frankly, they’re not necessary–this story isn’t about that, and had the author attempted to invent specious reasoning for the wheres and whyfores of this concept, this would have been a very different book. A. obviously makes some mistakes in judgments–haven’t we all?–and I do think his relationship with Rhiannon developed rather suddenly, as she’s a fine enough girl, but I never really understood why he liked her so much! But for me, this all worked within the confines of this story concept. I accepted that in the course of living countless lives in A.’s lifetime, something in this girl at this time called out to him. And sometimes people just come along at the exact right time in your life when you desperately need it, and A. is very much in need of being loved. And perhaps even more importantly, he is very much in need of being acknowledged.
“The tenderness between two people can turn the air tender, the room tender, time itself tender. As I step out of bed and slip on an oversize shirt, everything around me feels like it’s the temperature of happiness.”
Things become very difficult, of course, once Rhiannon learns about A.’s unique circumstance. It’s hard to fault anyone for having trouble accepting the fantastical premise, as well as the reality of living with it, because after all, a big, big part of love relies on both the thrill and the comfort we find in another person’s familiar presence. The struggle that these two have to reconcile what they want with what is realistic is poignant though ultimately, still very hopeful. By the end of this pensive, bittersweet novel, your heart may rend in two, because the purest form of love is perhaps when it involves some form of selflessness or self-sacrifice. But there’s a great deal of beauty–and comfort–to be found in that, too.
This is my first time reading David Levithan. But it won’t be my last.
Rated 4 out of 5 stars
This review also appears on GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
This novel is recommended for: fans of A Certain Slant of Light, for those who were intrigued by the body-switching concept in Mercy, and for those who might’ve yearned for a more mature, tender feeling from Tempest.
Random Review Bonus
This review was powered by cookies! By special request from Cassi over at Galavanting Girl Books, here is a recipe for the sea salt peanut butter cookies I ate while writing my review of Every Day. It’s the lightest, chewiest peanut butter cookie I’ve ever eaten, keeps for several days, and the best part is, it’s flourless, butterless, and gluten-free. Download the free recipe card and enjoy the cookies with a glass of milk and a good book!
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