Welcome to the second discussion of the Relaxed & Groovy Book Club! I’m enjoying the excuse to re-read some of my favorite stories and to talk about why I like them. I hope you’ll tell me whether or not you like the books we’ve read. (It’s really okay if you don’t!)
March’s book is one that I would seriously love to shove into everyone’s hands and watch them read.
March’s Relaxed & Groovy Book Club selection:
EVERY DAY by David Levithan
Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Fantasy
Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
In his New York Times bestselling novel, David Levithan introduces readers to what Entertainment Weekly calls a “wise, wildly unique” love story about A, a teen who wakes up every morning in a different body, living a different life.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.
With his new novel, David Levithan, bestselling co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day. (From author’s website.)
This novel is beyond fantastic.
Let’s peek at the opening:
I wake up.
Immediately I have to figure out who I am. It’s not just the body – opening my eyes and discovering whether the skin on my arm is light or dark, whether my hair is long or short, whether I’m fat of thin, boy or girl, scarred or smooth. The body is the easiest thing to adjust to, if you’re used to waking up in a new one each morning. It’s the life, the context of the body, that can be hard to grasp.
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.
The information is there. I wake up, open my eyes, understand that it is a new morning, a new place. The biography kicks in, a welcome gift from the not-me part of the mind. Today I am Justin. Somehow I know this – my name is Justin – and at the same time I know that I’m not really Justin, I’m only borrowing his life for a day. I look around and know that this is his room. This is his home. The alarm will go off in seven minutes.
I’m never the same person twice, but I’ve certainly been this type before. Clothes everywhere. Far more video games than books. Sleeps in his boxers. From the taste of his mouth, a smoker. But not so addicted that he needs one as soon as he wakes up.
“Good morning, Justin,” I say. Checking out his voice. Low. The voice in my head is always different.
Justin doesn’t take care of himself. His scalp itches. His eyes don’t want to open. He hasn’t gotten much sleep.
Already I know I’m not going to like today.
Not your average story right from the start. And it just gets better. This character Leviathan has created is amazing. The situation he’s put this character in, switching lives every day, allows ‘A’ to comment on the human condition in a unique way and offer up fantastic insights. Here’s one near the beginning of the book:
I know from experience that beneath every peripheral girl is a central truth. She’s hiding hers away, but at the same time she wants me to see it. That is she wants Justin to see it. And it’s there, just out of my reach. A sound waiting to be a word.
Leviathan’s character ‘A’ sees more about humanity because of the way he lives, the way he experiences life.
The Questions and Possibly Some Answers:
How ‘A’ lives cannot be an easy thing to adjust to, how would you cope with losing your identity every day? Or changing bodies every day?
It’s hard enough trying to figure out who you are living life as an average teen, can you imagine not having anything to ground you to reality? No home or family to retreat to when you have a bad day? Not even a familiar vessel to call your own?
This story really gets down to the essence of what makes us human, doesn’t it?
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 will never feel the pressure of peers or the burden of parental expectation. I can view everyone as pieces of a whole, and focus on the whole, not the pieces. I have learned how 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.
A tries to tread lightly in the lives of each person he becomes – to do no harm is the first rule. Then love comes into the picture and A abandons his carefully constructed rules.
It’s one thing to fall in love. It’s another to feel someone else falling in love with you, and to feel a responsibility toward that love.
A hijacks the next day’s body, Nathan, to see Rhiannon again. When Nathan wakes up remembering details of what happened this leads to trouble for A.
Still, A continues to pursue his love of Rhiannon. A tries to find a way to see Rhiannon every day, and to make her see him as the same person inside, even though the body outside changes every day. No matter what body type or gender, no matter how far A must travel, or how complicated that makes life for the person A has taken over, A must see her at all costs.
It’s fascinating to see A possess so many different types of people. When A wakes up in the body of an addict craving a fix, the pursuit of Rhiannon is put on hold as the physical craving is so overpowering, nothing else gets through.
It is a mistake to think of the body as a vessel. It is as active as any mind, as any soul. And the more you give yourself to it, the harder your life will be. I have been in the bodies of starvers and purgers, gluttons and addicts. They all think their actions make their lives more desirable. But the body always defeats them in the end.
We also get to see A reflect on religion from a unique perspective when one body goes to church and another meeting with Rhiannon is made impossible.
I have been to many religious services over the years. Each one I go to only reinforces my general impression that religions have much, much more in common than they like to admit. The beliefs are almost always the same; it’s just that the histories are different. Everybody wants to believe in a higher power. Everybody wants to belong to something bigger than themselves, and everybody wants company in doing that.They want there to be a force for good on earth, and they want an incentive to be a part of that force. They want to be able to prove their belief and their belonging, through rituals and devotion. They want to touch the enormity.
It’s only in the finer points that it gets complicated and contentious, the inability to realize that no matter what our religion or gender or race or geographic background, we all have about 98 percent in common with each other. Yes, the differences between male and female are biological, but if you look at the biology as a matter of percentage, there aren’t a whole lot of things that are different. Race is different purely as a social construct, not as an inherent difference. And religion – whether you believe in God or Yahweh or Allah or something else, odds are that at heart you want the same things. For whatever reason, we like to focus on the 2 percent that’s different, and most of the conflict in the world comes from that.
The only way I can navigate through my life is because of the 98 percent that every life has in common.
If only everyone could navigate through life with this open-minded perspective, right? The author has weaved so many of these great observations on humanity into the story that it’s just a delight to read.
Now at some point, you may start to think that A has quite a wonderful view of life, and maybe it might even be pretty cool to be able to change lives every day, but then as Rhiannon comes to understand A’s life more and really tries to grapple with A’s reality, she challenges this perfect view.
A tells her:
It’s so hard when you’re in one body to get a sense of what life is really like. You’re so grounded in who you are. But when who you are changes every day – you get to touch the universal more. Even the most mundane details. You see how cherries taste different to different people. Blue looks different. You see all the strange rituals boys have to show affection without admitting it. You learn that if a parent reads to you at the end of the day, it’s a good sign that it’s a good parent, because you’ve seen so many other parents who don’t make the time. You learn how much a day is truly worth, because they’re all so different.
She responds to him:
But you never get to see things over time, do you? I don’t mean to cancel out what you just said. I think I understand that. But you’ve never had a friend that you’ve known day in and day out for ten years. You’ve never watched a pet grow older. You’ve never seen how messed up a parent’s love can be over time. And you’ve never been in a relationship for more than a day, not to mention for more than a year.
I loved these contrasting views on life. So wonderful to think about what gives life meaning, what makes it fuller.
There were some many other amazing conversations like this in the book, I could talk about this story forever!
I really shouldn’t go any further unless I want to give away the ending, and I really don’t want to do that – but ahhh! didn’t it just make you weep?
I hope you enjoyed reading this month’s book as much as I did. Leviathan recently published a companion book that came out late last year called ANOTHER DAY, which tells Rhiannon’s side of the story. How great is that? I can’t wait to read it!
April’s Relaxed & Groovy Book Club selection:
ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, LGBT
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.(Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Follow Benjamin on Twitter here.
Ignore the fact that this book has so many award stickers on the cover it’s ridiculous. Don’t let that intimidate you. This book is a damn good read. From the very first page, I stopped to reread passages that took my breath away, that made me want to hug this book to me and never let it go.
Here’s the first passage that stopped me in my tracks:
“As far as I was concerned, the sun could have melted the blue right off the sky. Then the sky could be as miserable as I was.”
And that was just the writer getting warmed up and talking about the weather. He gets deep and breaks your heart with his words. And you want to thank him for it.
Trust me, you WANT to read this book!
The next meeting of this most relaxed and groovy of book clubs will be the last week of April. (Tie-dyed tees and funky shoes optional.)