Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: Every Day

Title: Every Day
Author: David Levithan
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
My Rating: ★★★★ (4/5 stars)

Every Day

Admit it: at one point in your life—that specific point when you find yourself scooped up by the gigantic hurricane of all the mess you’ve made in your existence so far—you’ve wondered what it would be like to wake up as another person. You’ve longed to restart. You’ve longed to get the chance to draw your life once again on a clean slate because you can’t handle this trouble-jumble anymore. You’ve longed for an escape.

David Levithan toys with this idea and throws in a poignantly ironic spin on it for his latest novel, Every Day. Blurbs say that this is Levithan’s most ambitious work yet, and I can see where they are coming.

While we accept the old dogma “life doesn’t come with an instruction manual” as true with bittersweet acknowledgment, sixteen-year-old A sort of wishes it to be true, literally. After all, a concrete compilation of precise instructions on life would be a big help to someone like A…that is, someone who wakes up in a different body, in a different life every morning.

There’s never any warning about where the “transfer” will occur or who the next “host” will be. A doesn't have an idea why or how it happens; he doesn’t even know what he actually is! For almost two decades, he eventually learns to make peace with this fact. He even established his own rules: don’t get too attached, don’t get noticed, and don’t interfere. But everything changed when he opens his eyes one day and finds himself in the body of Justine, Rhiannon’s boyfriend. He falls in love with Rhiannon in a flash, and he knows he has to dismantle the guidelines he set for himself. But is love really possible in this strange setup?

Even if it’s been a while since I last read something written by Levithan, I was a tad astonished to find how he deftly builds one intricate inkscape of a story with the simplest of words. His prose here is very much reminiscent of The Lover’s Dictionary: straight and to-the-point, yet with hem that is swaying with subtlest hints of romantic poetry. I read somewhere before that music is love in search of words. Upon reading this book, I know that it somehow contains that music. His sentences sing, and anyone who doesn’t mind having loads of saccharine in their read would have a good time with this book. Every Day, however, is not all cheese.

Levithan deliberately uses the novel’s narrative force as a tool to explore issues regarding sexuality. The main protagonist fully accepts whatever the gender of his host is; A himself is fluid, and more than once he (thinks he) falls in love with people regardless of their sexuality. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual…he knows these are all just trappings around our true selves, and he gets passed through them to see the core. As he uses this to make some pseudo-commentaries, you’ll know that Levithan obviously still leans on some hope of an LGBTQ utopia, one that we took a glimpse of in his other novel Boy Meets Boy.

It’s hard to make a verdict when it comes to the characters, though. I can’t consider A fully fleshed out—and this has very little to do with his actually not having flesh. To be fair, not having a permanent body affects one’s identity as a character. A’s nature requires him to adapt; he holds nothing but his ideals and self-imposed laws that define him as a dignified entity. But I noticed that while his voice effectively exudes the biting tang of adolescence—being witty one minute and being heart-meltingly romantic the next—there are a few parts where he lacks the solidity of a strong narrator. It’s like, he’s already had his hooks on the reader’s interest, and then the hooks would slip out of their grip without any warning. But I guess it’s understandable, since it mostly happens when A’s doing his transient transfer to unremarkable people (with appearances ranging from three paragraphs to two pages, obvious unnecessary slice-of-life fillers). As for Rhiannon, I think it’s safe to say she’s a clear case of Mary Sue. It will stay the same even if we see her through an alternative POV, even without A’s love-struck goggles of perception.

The plot is twisted in a sense that it’s practically a labyrinthine bulk of little detours and turns—sans losing the main point, of course. Levithan managed to make the main storyline magnified. He didn’t exactly paint a portrait of ideal love. In a way, I think that A’s feelings for Rhiannon for the most part of the book are self-destructive. When I say self, I mean both A’s self and the body he’s occupying. The moment he disregarded all the rules, he has also disturbed the “harmony” of the owners of the bodies he wore. He managed to save one life, yes, but compared to the others he used as tools so he could follow Rhiannon around? For the record, I’m not one of those girls who consider stalking as romantic.

But hey, it’s young love. For A, the world is practically a fleeting concept—we can’t blame him if for once, he found something that he wanted so badly to hold on to for more than 24 hours. Or forever. A soon realizes that what he’s doing is selfish (and sort of “evil”), but even with this little epiphany he didn’t seem that well-developed. The novel’s ending wrapped up nicely, though: knotted with a heart-wrenching bittersweetness of letting go, and the silhouettes of hopes and possibilities looming beneath the last sentence.

Despite its flaws, I still consider this book one of David Levithan’s bests.

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