Friday February 22, 2013
Every Day - A tale that touches your heart
Review by SHARMILLA GANESAN
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf,
This is the kind of book you feel, not think, your way through.
THERE are books whose strengths you can easily explain.
Then, there are those like Every Day, that, despite all the niggling flaws your intellectual side can pinpoint, tug at your emotional core until you have no choice but to succumb.
Thatís not to say this is a brainless trifle of a book; if anything, this young adult novel deals with some very weighty issues (and is by no means only for young adults).
What I mean is that David Levithan has managed to pen a story that goes not for the part of us that thinks and reasons, but rather, where we conceal our raw emotions.
The premise alone is enough to intrigue: A is a teenager who wakes up every morning in a different personís body, and for that one day, lives that individualís life. The person A wakes up as could be anyone Ė any gender, any race, any appearance, any background Ė with the only constant being they are the same age as A.
Being able to access the personís memories, A has learnt to adapt quickly, and so has lived thus far discreetly and without ever being detected.
One day, A wakes up in Justinís body, and unexpectedly, falls in love with his girlfriend Rhiannon. From then on, the existence that A has been resigned to becomes a struggle as A tries to reconnect with Rhiannon day after day, in different bodies and lives.
It is, admittedly, a mind-bending (or outlandish, depending on how you look at it) concept, seemingly more suited to sci-fi or fantasy novels. Levithan, however, isnít really concerned with the mechanics of Aís existence. Instead, he uses it to examine much more relatable issues, like identity, relationships, and the connections we make with those around us.
How much of who we are is influenced by our appearance and how people react to it?
Where is that intangible point between our inner and outer selves where identity is created?
Are any of our relationships ever truly separate from outward appearances? And can you love someone who is fated to change every day? These are the questions that Every Day grapples with, helped along by Levithanís delicate, beautiful writing.
In A, the author has created a singularly unique character who is our biggest motivation to keep turning the pages. Wise beyond his/her years, yet charmingly innocent, A is perfectly developed: simultaneously our window into people as well as the observant ďoutsiderĒ.
The heartbreaking reality of A drifting through life without making a single real connection with another person gives the book a definite melancholic undercurrent. Yet, this only makes the moments of interaction with someone Ė and the joy A takes in it Ė even more profound.
Surprisingly, Aís relationship with Rhiannon, while providing the backbone, isnít the most interesting element of the book.
This is perhaps due to Rhiannonís somewhat shallow characterisation; while we can certainly empathise with Aís depth of feeling for her, we never really see what makes her worth breaking all the rules A has kept to so far.
Instead, what makes Every Day so gripping is seeing who A wakes up as each day, and getting a glimpse into this new personís life and inner landscape. This structure allows Levithan to explore a whole host of identity-related issues, from sexuality to psychological trauma to body image, and he does it with a realism and sensitivity that often packs quite an emotional punch.
(These are obviously subjects close to his heart, with previous books, such as Boy Meets Boy and Nick And Norahís Infinite Playlist, dealing with similar subjects.)
That said, the central conceit of the book does create a certain episodic feel to the proceedings, which is especially obvious in Aís interactions with Rhiannon (how I wish she was more absorbing!).
And if youíre the kind of reader who needs answers, well, Every Day may irritate you because it never really offers a satisfactory explanation for Aís existence. While there are hints of a larger story to the mystery (possible sequel, perhaps?), the book is much more interested in the results of such a life, not the reasons.
Even the ending, admittedly rather predictable, canít help but win you over, thanks to the strong attachment youíve formed to A and the authorís ability to write heartfelt prose without resorting to clichť or becoming saccharine sweet.
Tears are a definite possibility, but I did warn you: this is the kind of book you feel, not think, your way through.