Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Another day, another body

What if you woke up every morning in a new body? One morning you are a white teenage boy; the next, a sixteen year-old Asian-American girl. You wake up in the body of a clinically depressed girl who wants to commit suicide, or a boy whose beloved grandfather who has just died. You may be gay, straight, desperately underfed, or morbidly obese. Each morning, you check in with your host, accessing the facts of your new situation. It’s been like this your entire life, and you’ve learned to live in the body of strangers, always your age, one day at a time. Never get attached, don’t interfere, and try not to screw up your host’s life.
            That is the premise of “Every Day,” by David Levithan (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012).  As the book opens, A (the name the character has given him/herself) wakes up in the body of Justin, a handsome but selfish jerk. A meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon, and A’s rules for living fly out the window. Because A has fallen in love—and wants to be with Rhiannon every day.
            In the days that follow, A finds ways to see Rhiannon when possible. (One of the quirks of A’s condition is that his/her soul can’t travel across long distances. The only way A can move from one part of the country to another is when that day’s body goes on a trip—which poses a big problem the day one host is supposed to fly to Hawaii for a wedding.) It takes some doing, of course, to convince Rhiannon that A jumps from one body to the next on a daily basis. But she does, and then she’s faced with the dilemma: can you be in love with a single person who inhabits a different body every day?
            “Every Day” is a love story, but it also raises provocative moral and philosophical questions. How do attributes like race, gender, sexuality, or class define us? A particularly likes and identifies with host body Vic, who is “biologically female, gendered male. Living within the definition of his own truth, just like me. He knows who he wants to be. Most people our age don’t have to do that. They stay within the realm of the easy.”
            Need I add that Levithan writes like an angel? He pulls off his implausible premise with aplomb, and the ending is both bittersweet and satisfying. 

This review was originally published in Sunday, September 9, 2012 edition of The News-Gazette.