Thursday, October 11, 2012

Every Day, by David Levithan - fascinating realistic fantasy (ages 12+)

My teen years were filled with questioning. It's a time when you're thinking critically about the world around you and the way people interact. I just finished an amazing new book for teens that wove in so many of these questions, this pondering - and yet the plot was utterly absorbing. To say I loved reading Every Day, by David Levithan, is an understatement. I want to give this to every teen I know.
Every Day
by David Levithan
NY: Knopf / Random House, 2012
audiobook read by Alex McKenna
available on AmazonAudible and your local library
Every day, A wakes up in a different body. It's always been like that as long as he/she has known. A completely accepts this way of life; it's just the way it is. Each day is a new day, learning about a new person, living each day in the moment. As A explains,
"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."
As you probably noticed, A is not a girl or a boy. A has an identity that isn't attached to a body or a physical gender. Sometimes A wakes up female, sometimes male. Alex McKenna embodies the A's perspective perfectly in the audiobook narration, bringing the listener into A's perspective, shifting voices just enough to give a sense of different characters A embodies but keeping a solid voice as A throughout. In my mind, I keep switching the pronoun I use to describe A, and will do so in the rest of this reflection.

A goes through life by respecting the body he is in for the day and not making any lasting connections. There is always today, but A can never have a tomorrow since tomorrow A will be in a different body. This existence is lonely, but it is also freeing - A is able to focus on herself. Until she meets Rhiannon. Then life completely changes for A. A falls deeply in love with Rhiannon, perhaps obsessively, and cannot stop thinking about her. The rules A has developed for himself cannot apply any more, because A realizes that Rhiannon is someone she wants to be with every day, no matter what body she inhabits.

David Levithan started this book by thinking about two questions. What would it be like going through life with no connections? And what would it be like to fall in love with someone who was physically different every day? At a recent book talk, Levithan described how this is the first novel he's written where he's started with questions and written without a detail plot outlined. He wanted each chapter, each character A wakes up as to be new for him, to be fresh. Levithan has created over 30 unique, interesting characters - and yet, he has also created a consistent voice for A throughout. It's absolutely riveting.

As the story progresses, A and Rhiannon develop a strong attachment - trying to keep connected as A changes every day. Rhiannon loves A, but she finds it very difficult to ignore his physical body. Sometimes A shows up in a girl's body, other times in a boy's body. Their relationship is fraught with complications that teens will identify with - acceptance, communication, jealousy.

The questions A wrestles with are authentic, organic to the story. They never overwhelm the story. Teens will be fascinated with Levithan's philosophical musings on love, identity, longing, gender and relationships, and yet they will ultimately be drawn to this love story. Can we overcome our physical identities and love someone for who they are on the inside?Can you truly love someone who cannot be there for you every day?

Could this really happen? Well, no - this is fantasy. And yet, this will appeal to teens who love realistic fiction because Levithan writes so well about the real life relationships between these teens. My own teen coined the term "realistic fantasy." What do you think of it?

Listen to David Levithan talk about Every Day and then read the first chapter:

Listen to a sample from Random House Audio.

Read these interesting reviews at Bookends and Heise Reads. I listened to the audiobook, purchased through Audible, and highly recommend it. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

No comments:

Post a Comment