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“Every Day” by David Levithan

TEEN LIBRARIAN’S REVIEW:

David Levithan is an amazing, amazing writer who needs no accolades from me. Nevertheless, I’m giving them to him. 😉 Levithan is the author of one of my all-time favorite YA novels, the incandescent “Boy Meets Boy,” and co-author of books you, dear reader, and I absolutely adore, like “Will Grayson, Will Grayson,” “Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares,” and “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.”

“Every Day” is Levithan’s latest book, and the concept is blow-your-mind unique: A is a genderless entity, a being or soul, who inhabits a different 16 year old body each day. Boy, girl, black, white, Asian, straight, gay, transgendered, fat, slim, popular, suicidal … you name it, A has been that person for one day. A’s host remembers nothing of the “lost” day, apparently because A is able to implant alternate memories. A can access only internal facts about the host — locker combinations, sibling names, etc. — not emotional connections. A is, however, subject to the biological or chemical constraints of the host body and any corresponding emotional conditions caused by those constraints. (There is an absolutely harrowing day when A, in an addict’s body, uses every bit of mental energy to combat nearly overpowering drug cravings; similarly, A’s one day as a clinically depressed girl is devastating.)

When we meet A, A is in the body of Justin, a typical brooding high school guy with a chip on his shoulder and a pretty girlfriend. That girlfriend is the vulnerable, often heartbroken Rhiannon, who basically stays with Justin because (a) she thinks he’ll become a better version of himself, and (b) she’s afraid to be alone. Lo and behold, when A is in Justin’s body, Justin is, indeed, a better version of himself. A ignores the “rules” and has Justin do some un-Justin-like things, like ditching school and taking Rhiannon to the beach. Even worse (or better?), A-as-Justin is suddenly more caring, attentive, and open, leading the beaten-down Rhiannon to emerge more fully from her protective shell. In one epic day, Rhiannon falls in love with “Justin” again, while A, for the first time in A’s life, falls in love, too.

Except, of course, that epic day has to end. When A next lands in the body of Nathan, an overachieving, straight-laced guy, he drives for hours and crashes a party attended by Rhiannon. “Nathan,” posing as a gay, non-romantic interest, dances the night away with Rhiannon and later contacts her by email. (A keeps a personal email account.) Unfortunately, A has to keep Nathan out late for the party — the switch to the next host always occurs at midnight, regardless — meaning that Nathan wakes up on the side of the road with no memory of how he got there. When Nathan’s story of demonic possession goes viral — and when Nathan himself starts emailing A demanding answers — A’s anonymity and very existence become threatened. Still, being smitten and nursing the hope of finally living a regular life, A risks all and reveals all to Rhiannon. She reluctantly agrees to keep meeting A, in all A’s different bodies, while she sorts out her feelings.

“Every Day” is so thought provoking and raises such intriguing questions about personhood and identity and love, that for these reasons alone — not to mention the beautiful writing and amazingly complex one-day characterizations — it’s a winner. Do we really love the person inside, or is the exterior an inevitable factor? A slowly realizes that it’s easier for Rhiannon to connect with him when A is inhabiting a hot guy than when A is morbidly obese or female. A is such a remarkable character, mature beyond A’s earthly years, yet still a teenager who can be rash and impulsive. But A is different in one crucial way. Unlike the rest of us, A sees no gender or sexual orientation. A exists as a pure identity. An essence. A being. Seeing how this all plays out is illuminating and heartbreaking and kind of beautiful. Huge kudos to David Levithan for pulling off the logistics of the hosting so smoothly and for making the romance between A and Rhiannon so incredibly ill fated (and, thus, so incredibly intriguing).

[Total side note, but as I read “Every Day,” I thought of Against Me! lead singer Laura Jane Grace. Laura Jane was born as Tom Gabel, but she knew from a very young age that she was a woman. Tom married Heather Gabel a few years ago, and together they had a daughter. Tom struggled all this time with gender dysphoria, the technical term for feeling like your external anatomy and the sex roles assigned to it don’t line up with your internal gender identity. In May of 2012, Tom came out publicly as transitioning to a woman, Laura Jane, despite the prejudices of some in the punk and wider communities. Laura Jane is an absolute inspiration of being true to who you are. And you know what’s cool? Heather has stayed with Laura Jane, saying that she fell in love with the person who is Laura Jane, not the external male who was Tom. Awesome. A would be proud.]

There are some truly genius touches here — A inhabits twins on back-to-back days, allowing A to see the after effects on the host — as well as so many captivating insights into the relationships between teens and their peers, parents, and siblings. I highly recommend “Every Day” to older middle and high school readers. It’s really like nothing else I’ve ever read, and a full week after finishing it, I still find myself thinking about A. Which, sign of a great book, y’all. Please check out “Every Day” and see what you think!

every day

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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“Parrotfish” by Ellen Wittlinger

TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:

"Parrotfish" is the story of a transgendered teen who grew up as Angela Katz-McNair. As the novel begins, Angela has taken a big step, deciding to dress like a boy and assume the name Grady. We then follow the reaction of Grady's family, classmates, and former best friend as they struggle to accept the fact that the person they once knew is now living as a boy.

Grady is a very likable character, and it's nice that the entire story is not about being separated, ridiculed, or abused for being different. Yes, a mean, popular girl tries to play a cruel joke on Grady, but the book — for me at least — seemed like it was more about acceptance, both by oneself and by others. In fact, the entire story takes place in the weeks preceding Christmas, a holiday for which Grady's family pulls out all the stops. Besides a lawn covered in ornaments and a house weighed down with lights and decorations, the Katz-McNair family even puts on a Christmas Eve pageant for their neighbors! This year's pageant, with Grady now playing a male character and his eccentric, wonderfully loyal friend Sebastian as Tiny Tim, is a fitting, touching climax to the book.

My only complaint with "Parrotfish" is that I would've liked to meet Angela, the girl Grady was before he found the courage to live as the person he was always supposed to be. Not knowing much about Grady's previous life, the reader never gets to fully relate to his decision to begin dressing and living as a boy. This is a minor complaint, since the book itself is quite good. I particularly liked the fact that it was so consistently positive in tone, as shown by Grady finding new friends — and even a potential girlfriend, Kita — as a transgendered person.

This is a thought provoking but enjoyable book about a person many of us would label as different. It provides great insight into the worries, fears, hopes, and joys of one transgendered teenager. I'd definitely recommend it for high school age readers.

One last note. If you enjoyed this novel, you might also want to read Julie Ann Peters' "Luna."

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

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“Luna” by Julie Anne Peters

TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:

Sophomore girl Regan narrates the story of her transgendered older brother, Liam (Luna). Luna only emerges at night, in Regan’s bedroom, where she puts on dresses, wigs, makeup and gets to act truly free. The story is intercut with episodes from Regan and Liam’s childhood, some of which are terribly painful to read. Regan’s whole life is devoted to Liam, to being there for him and going to great, sometimes costly lengths to keep his secret. Regan has no friends and is a true loner, until she meets Chris in her chemistry class and realizes how much fun they have together. The story follows Regan and Chris' new relationship, as well as Liam's halting efforts to let Luna emerge in public as his 18th birthday approaches. This book is troubling, beautiful, and painfully honest … often all at the same time. It's probably not for everyone, but if you're looking for a well-written book that will stay with you afterward, "Luna" may be for you.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2006 in Uncategorized

 

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