The True Meaning of Identity
By Olivia Hodel
Have you ever wished to be someone different? Or wondered what it would be like to be another person?
David Levithan explores the reality of such a situation in his new book Every Day. The main character, a 16-year-old by the name of A, experiences each day in a different person’s body (for purposes of clarity I will refer to A in the masculine). The only thing A knows about how the “body switching” works is that he always inhabits the lives of boys and girls his age. On the opening page of his novel, Levithan describes A’s situation, noting that it is not the physical structure of the body that is hard to get used to, rather “it’s the life, the context of the body, that can be hard to grasp.”
Immediately after describing his situation, A wakes up one morning in the body of a boy named Justin. A uses what he calls “accessing” in order to find out his name, normal activities, class schedule, and route to school. All of the other emotions are left up to A to decide as he runs the body for the day. When Justin gets to school, his girlfriend begins talking to him. A knows that this girl is Justin’s girlfriend, but he can tell by her body language that Justin does not treat her well. Up until now, A has never allowed his thoughts to influence the body’s life, but the girl, Rhiannon, strikes A so vividly that he cannot help himself. He meets Rhiannon later in the day at lunchtime and they leave school to go to the beach. Both A and Rhiannon have an amazing day as they sit by the water and talk for hours. To the reader, this feels like a first date for A and Rhiannon, but A is faced with the reality that tomorrow he will be a completely different person. And A falls in love.
As the story goes on, A has to face the fact that he has no true identity in a way that he has never had to before. A begins messing up the lives of the people he inhabits as he goes back to find Rhiannon, though she has no idea that Justin was not really Justin that day on the beach. Suspicion begins to emerge when A does not get home in time for midnight one night and leaves the body he was in on the side of a road. But does love conquer all of these difficulties?
Levithan does a remarkable job at transforming such a peculiar life into one that the reader can relate to. He brilliantly captures all aspects of adolescence and growing up. While this novel is a love story, Levithan teaches adolescents very valuable lessons. One of my favorites was a brief moment when Levithan seemed to expose his own thoughts:
“I am a drifter, and as lonely as that can be, it is also remarkably freeing. I will never define myself in terms of anyone else…I can view everyone as pieces of a whole, and focus on the whole, not the pieces. I have learned to observe, far better than most people observe. I am not blinded by the past or motivated by the future. I focus on the present because that is where I am destined to live.”
Every Day is an inspiring novel in which our perception of reality, ironically, becomes clearer.