One Trick Pony with broken Legs

David Levithan – Every Day

Tea: Orange Rooibos Tea

Disclaimer: Spoiler-Warning! You’ll thank me for not having to read it yourself

I have read good books, terrible books, ones that left me unsatisfied, and straight up boring ones. But I was never tempted to throw a book into a furnace as I was with this one. This piece of writing is the ultimate example to illustrate that Amazon-Reviews are never to be trusted and that an interesting concept can be killed off by an incompetent writer. Let’s start digging this grave to bury this mess.

Every Day tells the story of the protagonist A who wakes up in a different body ever day regardless of gender or origin. Some limitations do apply, however, as he only wakes up in bodies that are of his age, which is 16. Solid concept or at least an interesting idea, am I right? The things you could do with it, but, oh dear reader, are you in for a ride with this critique. In the first chapter we learn of his rules: Never messing up a person’s life and generally leaving everything as it is as to not draw any attention. In the same effing chapter we see him break this simple rule. He is in the body of Justin a stereotypical teenage boy with his equally bland girlfriend Rhiannon. But A falls for this girl and decides to skip school and give her a day she deserved, a day Justin never gave her. Often uttering things like “Justin never does/says this” to himself. I am so glad you are keeping to your rules. Why would you set out rules the character breaks in his first encounter with this special girl? Why should I believe he follows these rules anyway?

After that the name A might as well stand for Asshole, as he messes up a lot of people’s life just to see Rhiannon again, day after day. One day in the body of Nathan a stereotypical nerd, because writing unique characters is a chore the writer cannot be bothered with. He forces the body to a party, a thing that goes against Nathan’s principles. He leaves his body in his parent’s car on the side of the road. A and Rhiannon now are in e-mail contact, but Nathan is a special case, since he somehow remembers being possessed by A and claims the devil made him lie to his parents to get the car and go to this party. And while this sound like the kind of thing your parents listen to once and then ground you, he gets a lot of attention and asks others if they have had a similar experience.

A reveals his secret to Rhiannon and she is a bit sceptical, but after some questioning and showing up in different bodies she is on board. He tells her how much better of a boyfriend/girlfriend, since A doesn’t have a fixed gender, he would be and asks her to break up with Justin. And while Rhiannon is not exactly happy with Justin she refuses. During the course of their romance they meet for a day of love-making in the woods, but end up just cuddling, all the while Rhiannon is still in a relationship with Justin. I feel so related to these characters… And if that isn’t enough, if the day is not filled with romance shenanigans you get David Levithan’s opinions and worldviews shoved down your throat. There is chapter in a church and A just starts uttering his views on God and religion and I can’t help but wonder who he is talking to, himself obviously, but who would do that? He is a character he already knows how he thinks about that. It just feels odd and out of place.

The sub-plot with Nathan gets resolved rather anti-climactic. A reverend he contacted after his supposed possession gathers cases and Nathan spams A’s mail account with questions and demands answers. One time trying to shame-guilt the devil he supposes possessed him. Since the devil is known for being such a considerate person that would surely admit to everything after hearing what a mess he has made in Nathan’s life. I do not have enough hair to rip out to survive this plot. Anyway, A decides to meet Nathan and tell him his secret and also Nathan just buys this and soon lures him into a meeting with the reverend. This supposed church-member is apparently also the kind of being A is and tells him that he can actually stay more than one day and that there are many more of his kind. A runs away and that is all we ever know about this topic.

His relationship with Rhiannon is in a downward spiral. Justin ended their relationship after discovering her with A and the book somehow paints Justin to be the bad one. Rhiannon, however, cannot cope with A’s “situation” and feels not only attracted to him as a person, but also needs a physical body to hold on to, to wake up next to etc. A sort of understandable line of thinking and thus comes the worst ending I have read in a long time. A wakes up in the body of simply the perfect human being. Alexander a boy with a heart of gold, a sunshine smile you can picture in your mind with smugness oozing out of every fibre of his being. He helps his buddies is always there for everyone, has three guitars, writes pseudo-philosophical post-it notes, has a great relationship with his parents, a romantic tree house, and on top of that is still single. What a coincidence… A sets up a date for him and Rhiannon and makes it seem like he will just stay in this body and be with her. But no, here comes the twist. He tells her he will leave and Alexander will remember this great date they had and she can just be his girlfriend, because he checked his memories and judges him to be a good guy. And Rhiannon is okay with that. The book ends with him implying to seek the reverend and uncover more about himself, all the while messing up the life of the girl he woke up in that morning. The End.

So where are my problems with this mess? First of all, the concept. The idea is interesting and there are some interesting days in this book. Like a transvestite body he ends up, or the body of an illegal immigrant girl. But they are just side stories and never evolve. Arguably this represents the different life situations a 16 year-old can have. But I already know that, it would be nice if you actually did something with it, rather than just pad out the length. The rules to A’s body switching are my biggest gripe. At first I wondered why he always ended up somewhere near Rhiannon, 4 hours being the longest distant ever away. So I assumed he is just trapped within a certain area. Later when a boy is supposed to go to Hawaii that day he fears that he would not be able to return, since he would just jump around on Hawaii apparently. Okay, so he can only travel a certain distance each night, makes sense, somehow… But why would he still gravitate towards Rhiannon, if he is 4 hours away, why is the next body closer to her and not further away? If he is always drawn to her, why does he worry about be further away, after a few nights you will be back again. It’s just coincidences that happen to work out for him and the writer.

Next is accessing memory. A can access a person’s memory to make it easier to identify who he is that day and what he is supposed to do or what the person’s past is. All fair and good, but what he can access and what not is purely arbitrary. Memories or experiences seem to work, but unconscious processes like a language are a problem and I was fine with that. But he can perfectly copy the person’s hand writing and signature, so is this an active memory you have to access all the time to write? How does he know Alexander is a good guy? He sees memories of him being good guy, supposedly, but he could be an absolute asshole in his mind and just not show it, but now for the sake of love, he can access those as well. We never learn more about this condition of jumping around. Did the reverend lie or tell the truth? What is A in the end and why does none of this make any god-damn sense?

The love-story is a mixed bag as well. I don’t see what A sees in Rhiannon, but that is love I suppose and I sure as hell can’t find anything inviting about A, since he is basically an egotistic brat that claims dominance over other people’s life, messes them up just for his own selfish needs. He has a character development near the end, but it comes out of no-where. Almost like someone told the author readers like a character arc and then he just wrote one. But no event or decision or anything triggers it, the development just happens.

The writing is boring and uninspired, every day feels the same, and the author manages to bury interesting aspects under his awful main plot. The subplot with Nathan as a threat is a joke and ends just as disappointingly as it started. Every Day is a truly terrible book and its positive feedback has me worried about the state of literature. You might say I am not the target-audience, but to that I reply: An amalgamation of weak writing, nonsensical story, and hit-or-miss characters should not have a target-audience.

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4 thoughts on “One Trick Pony with broken Legs

  1. Hmmm, just think of all the possibilities. Not only on a narratological level but if you really had such a talent. Are A´s rules self-imposed? Why bother anyway? Think of all the POSSIBILITIES! A could rob a bank or kill someone and another person would be dragged before court for him! There could be a great story about a villain who messes with people´s lives because he cannot establish an identity of his own due to the fact that he is constantly switching them. Just think of the consequences of experiencing only fragments of puberty in a multitude of bodies! Then the story could move on to A finding a person (Rhiannon or Rhianna, for all I care) who makes him see that his actions are not sound and that he should help others rather than inflict pain upon them due to his own messed up situation. There could be a great catharsis when trying to repair the damage he had commited in the past.
    Too generic?
    Why not make A an angelic person always trying to help the people he “inhabits” temporarily before being thrown in a situation where he has no other choice than to act unethically. Or why not make this into a detective story where A is a famous detective due to his special talent, seeing right into the minds of the suspects and thus always knowing who is the culprit, until one day, he is led astray by a curious case which he doesn´t seem to be able to resolve because (and that he doesn´t know only until a good way into the story), the murderer has the same mystical ability to inhabit other people´s body! There could be a depiction of an intense game of minds between the detective A and murderer B, with B being always one step ahead and in the end even making it seem to the police that the detective A is the killer! A very ingenious writer could also try and arrange his narrative in such a way that even the reader finally wonders who is the true responsible!
    This idea is a treasure box of opportunities and the best thing the writer can think of is a mediocre teenage romance story? Lame.

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    • See what I mean? If you can come up with a thousand-times more interesting scenarios on the spot, why can’t the writer? So much wasted potential. From the back of the book it is not made out to be just a cheesy teen romance. I thought the aspect of body-switching would play a much larger role, but no it becomes a minor inconveniece and nothing more. A well, at least Dragon Age is fun.

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