David Levithan may write fiction for young adults, but his work beguiles readers of all sorts. You just have to be hopelessly romantic and optimistic. It’s his ability to render real life as both stunningly concrete and yet endlessly poetic that wins them over. Ironically, he may be best known for two captivating collaborations, 2006’s “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” with Rachel Cohn and 2010’s “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” with John Greene.
But Levithan is a superior talent by himself, and he proves this once again with his 10th novel, the inventive “Every Day” (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2012, 324 pages). He loads up the book with a killer premise and then runs with it. A boy known only as A wakes up every morning as a completely different person and then changes again at midnight: “Every day I am someone else. I am myself—I know I am myself—but I am also someone else. It has always been like this.”
Each person A wakes up as is a fully formed character with his or her own problems and advantages, and Levithan takes the opportunity to click through a gallery of teenage personalities but taking the time to avoid making them stereotypes: Girl, boy, gay, athlete, geek, rocker dude, mean girl, and so on.
A had grown used to the endless getting-to-know-you process, until day 5,994 when he is 16. On this day, A meets a fragile, sad girl named Rhiannon, and falls in love. Now he faces a problem: How to talk and be with one girl if he is changing every morning? As he moves closer to Rhiannon, A has to deal with a boy he had taken over who seems to remember the experience and believes A is the devil.
Levithan adroitly puts “Every Day” through its paces by never removing the central conceit (the daily transformation) from the issues that A has to tackle. Just when you think you have Levithan all figured out, he throws in a completely game-changing element— and then does it one more time before “Every Day” is over. It’s enough to make you dizzy if you weren’t so involved in the story.
As with any Levithan book, “Every Day” features prose that becomes irresistibly poignant at times, parading passages such as this one: “This is what love does: It makes you want to rewrite the world. It makes you want to choose the characters, build the scenery, guide the plot. The person you love sits across from you, and you want to do everything in your power to make it possible, endlessly possible. And when it’s just the two of you alone in a room, you can pretend that this is how it is, this is how it will be.”
There are many themes running loose in “Every Day”: Destiny, randomness, growing up, faith, despair and, ultimately, the bittersweet nature of really falling in love for the first time. A is doomed to go through the length and breadth of a 26-year-old’s possible experiences endlessly, but it all changes when he meets the right—or wrong—person. How it plays out may not be perfect, but it is as close to the harsh unpredictability of real teenage life as you can get, with Levithan as willing witness. The pages fly past, real life intrudes and everything is new and double-bladed. The man knows what he’s doing.
Even the most jaded readers will find Levithan’s plot to be interesting, but teenaged readers searching for answers to their own questions, and those older who still hold on to their teen-year questions, will find a winning reading experience in “Every Day,” especially if you come to believe what David Levithan, chronicler of the brokenhearted but steadfastly hopeful, is trying to remind all of us: “Every person is a possibility.”