"Every Day" manages to meld seamlessly together two vastly different stories. On the one hand, the novel by David Levithan (author of "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) is a boy-meets-girl love story that fits neatly into the YA genre. On the other, it's a powerful and engrossing metaphysical mindbender that raises questions about how well we can really know another person and what it truly means to be human.
The protagonist of the story, who simply goes by the name "A," wakes up in a different body every day. There are a few parameters - A is always about the same age (16) and the bodies A inhabits usually are located within a few hours of one another. But just about every other variable is a gamble: A can be a boy or a girl, a straight-A student or a high school dropout; A can wake up in a family of non-English speaking immigrants or with a broken leg or even with a wicked hangover.
Much of the story explores the way A navigates the world no matter whose body (s)he is inhabiting. The novel is written in the first person, so we experience each day right along with A and learn about the challenges and surprising delights associated with this bizarre, but somehow totally believable, life. We also get a chance to get to know A, who has a strong sense of self despite the precarious balance (s)he upholds to keep from upsetting anyone else's life.
The details and mechanics of how A's life works are not the focus of the novel, however; they are just an incredibly rich setting for the love story that unfolds. For one day, while inhabiting the body of a boy named Justin, A makes a mistake: (s)he falls in love.
While the pining A does for 16-year-old Rhiannon and A's elevation of this girl above all other 16-year-olds is reminiscent of any YA romance novel, Levithan also forces A to question whether a person can love another person no matter how they appear on the outside.
Levithan said in an interview that he wanted to further explore the idea of love transcending boundaries after readers of all genders and sexual orientations told him they related closely to his 2003 novel, "Boy Meets Boy." While others have explored the idea of whether we can still love someone who changes their looks, personality or even gender, Levithan really makes the reader think about how much love and relationships can become based on things like appearance, location and plain old convenience.
While A seems to uphold a strong moral code in the beginning - refusing to tamper with the lives of the people whose bodies (s)he inhabits and generally trying not to make a mess - this quickly changes once A begins to feel something for Rhiannon. A soon realizes that sometimes love makes us lose control of ourselves, leading A to question even further who (s)he really is.
While the story doesn't wrap up with a perfect, happy ending, it does carry a hopeful note.
It also leaves the reader with a feeling of gratitude and a desire to dig more deeply into relationships and truly get to know others beyond the surface. Much like A's Rhiannon, "Every Day" stayed on my mind long after I left it.
Alexander is the arts and entertainment editor at the Sun-Gazette.