Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Review: Every Day By David Levithan

Do you ever read a book and think, “Am I reading the same thing as everyone else”? This is exactly how I felt with Every Day. All the reviews I’d seen were full of praise. I was expecting it to be amazing. It was not.

It's a shame because I liked the concept of “A” waking up in a different body each day, content to do so until falling in love with the girlfriend of one of the bodies. Intriguing, right? Unfortunately, the execution didn’t work for me. The writing itself was gorgeous and there was more than one quotable line, but the plot and characters drove me nuts.

A was The Worst, spending the whole time talking about being good but actually doing terrible things. There’s no build up of this “good” aspect before it gets compromised, making it very hard to like the protagonist. I didn’t buy the connection between A and Rhiannon (hello, insta-love!), and the way A obsesses over her is really quite icky. I know A changes bodies every day, but there was not much personality there beyond that obsession. Oh, and judging people. A judges everyone.

Like Rhiannon for not being able to always see past the physical. One of the themes of the book is that you love the person, not the body. The notion of biology being separate from identity is an interesting one, and could have been fascinating to explore, but Every Day only goes as deep as A getting angry if Rhiannon felt a bit weird seeing a girl’s body. Which is completely understandable because, yeah, sexuality is fluid, but if you identify as straight you can’t be expected to suddenly find the same sex attractive (and vice versa). And I know they say love is blind, but you still have to be attracted to the person you’re with. A judges Rhiannon pretty harshly for liking some bodies better, which I thought was unfair.

A is also super judgemental of Nathan, one of the bodies used, when he feels, well, used. A had snuck out of Nathan’s strict parent’s house to go to a party to see Rhiannon, lying to Rhiannon, drinking, staying too long and driving too late, ending up with Nathan waking up on the side of the road having no idea where he is or what has happened. I know A can’t control going into different bodies, but seriously? That’s abduction. The idea that so many bodies were being used against their will was quite discomforting. Particularly when A wanted to get more physical with Rhiannon. Not cool.

But A’s worst judgement is reserved for one of the last bodies described in the book. A wakes up inside an overweight teen boy, and turns on so much judgment that Simon Cowell looks like an open-minded puppy dog in comparison. A treats the teen as lazy, disgusting, stupid and… wait for it… shallow. Yep. Coz apparently being obese means you can’t have “emotional depth”. It’s really disappointing, because it could have been an opportunity to explore the very deep and complex emotions that often go along with weight problems. Instead, it reinforces prejudices against overweight people rather than using it as a chance to undermine them.

Rhiannon is not a lot better than A. She's pretty two-dimensional. Some of the bodies A spent a day in felt more developed than her. She accepted the A thing way too quickly and fell in love too easily. She was incredibly passive. A judges (there’s that word again) Rhiannon’s boyfriend for being horrible to her, but A doesn’t treat her a whole lot better, and she goes along with it. She doesn’t have any agency. Even at the end, A is in control of what will happen to Rhiannon “next”. So not romantic.

It was a shame that the bland, unromantic love story was the central plot, when the concept had so much potential. There is a bit of a subplot about people being after A, but it develops slowly and sporadically before finally fizzling out.

Despite the beautiful writing, Every Day was a very average read.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Fine Print
Published: 2012, Knopf
Get It: Book Depository


  1. It's been really interesting reading later reviews for this book after the initial rush of 5 stars... I think you raise some really valid points here and I'd probably have similar issues. I've seen a few others mention similar things about A's judgement of Rhiannon for not feeling the same level of attraction to every 'body'. Really great review :)

    1. It's interesting that you notice a difference between the earlier reviews and later ones. I wonder if the initial hype coloured everyone's reactions? I really don't see what all the fuss was about, to be honest.
      I just read that he's writing a companion told from Rhiannon's point of view! Why do authors feel the need to do that these days?!

    2. Wait, he's writing a companion novel to this? Now THAT sort of surprises me, and as much as I adored Every Day, I was content with seeing only one side of things. For me, Every Day was more than just A's love for Rhiannon. It was about people as a whole. But that's the beauty of reading --- everyone takes away something new/different.

      And while I do definitely agree with a few things you said, particularly with the judginess of A's character, I still stand by the fact that I love this book. I wasn't really in it for the love story to begin with, it was more because of the concept and the unique way in which the story was told. Talk about thinking outside the box! Another big draw for me was the lyrical and eloquent writing. Levithan has a way of stating these simple yet beautiful truths about the world, about people, truths that are often overlooked in the real world. And it's because of those truths told in that beautiful way that I was so profoundly affected.

      Granted, I didn't always agree with A's perception of the world, but body or not, A is still a person and people are flawed. One of the lessons you can take away is that no matter what type of life you have, no matter what kind of person you are, we are ALL the same in that we are flawed. Not a very nice truth to have, I'll admit, but it's a truth nonetheless.

      Either way, I'm just glad you got to read it. To each their own, right?

    3. Yes. But for me it was because of the concept and the unique way the story was told - i.e. the potential that was there - that this book was such a letdown, especially the fact that without the superficial use of the concept, and the lovely language, all it really is is a weak love story with poorly developed characters that's no better than Twilight. I would love for it to have explored the concept more in depth and focus more on identity and humanity, instead of an obsession with one girl.

  2. Lol, I love this review Belle. I haven't read the book yet (maybe never), but the fact that it's such a strong concept makes me sceptical for all the reasons you've just given. If a book is going to explore all those big issues, I think it has to make darned sure it does it well.

    I've enjoyed his books before, but his style of writing does tend to get on my wick somewhat. I think this is one I have to be in the right mood for. Not sure when that will be though...

    1. "If a book is going to explore all those big issues, I think it has to make darned sure it does it well." Exactly! And this book really doesn't. It skims the surface while focusing on the same old boring bad romance.
      I still want to read more of his work. I did love Dash and Lily.

  3. UGH. I've read The Lover's Dictionary by Levithan & hated it because the "relationship" being explored in it seemed horrible and not like love at all, & I hated his character in Will Grayson, Will Grayson. And this sounds AWFUL. He does write some good lines (there were a couple good ones in The Lover's Dictionary), but his characters are terrible people & his writing can come off as pretentious. Why is this guy such a popular author?

    1. Oh no! I was still looking forward to The Lover's Dictionary so it's a shame to hear the relationship isn't great in that. He seems like a bit hit and miss.

  4. Wow,that's a really good review of the book,with strong arguments.I liked the book,it was cute,but I never saw it from this perspective.Anyways,I still like the book,it made me happy.