In early March I happened upon a book review for Every Day, by David Levithan, while I was heading home on the bus from serving at the Optimist Oratorical Contest. The plot struck me as remarkably creative and I yearned to read this piece of fiction. After mulling it over for a few days, I decided to buy the kindle edition of the book. I’ve been reading a few pages each night on the bus, and I am enjoying this juvenile experience.
I was a fan of science fiction for decades, and it is a long time since I saw a plotline that seemed completely new to me. This one does. It has also brought me back to some of my thought processes from my teen years, and that has refreshed.
David Levithan was born after I graduated from high school in 1972. At 19, he received an internship at Scholastic Corporation where he began working on the The Baby-sitters Club series. Levithan still works for Scholastic as an editorial director. He is also the founding editor of PUSH, a young-adult imprint of Scholastic Press focusing on new voices and new authors. PUSH publishes edgier material for young adults. He has written 13 novels, most notably perhaps Boy Meets Boy (2003), collaborated on at least half a dozen others, and continues to edit.
I know, I know: Levithan writes for children and young adults. But I am loving his creativity and his insights on relationships. The main plot line is wonderfully creative to me, but I am reluctant to reveal it here and create a spoiler. I think it might have been logically more fully developed, but the compelling story about romantic love somewhat compensates for that. It is at its core a book about acceptance of others. The cover blurb is: Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
What initially grabbed me about the book was the creative plot device. As I read the book, though, I really came to appreciate Levithan’s descriptions of how individuals relate with each other, and how we think about gender.
Here are a few quotes that I liked:
“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.”
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: We all want everything to be okay. We don’t even wish so much for fantastic or marvelous or outstanding. We will happily settle for okay, because most of the time, okay is enough.”
“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 of 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 construction, 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.”
“Some people think mental illness is a matter of mood, a matter of personality. They think depression is simply a form of being sad, that OCD is a form of being uptight. They think the soul is sick, not the body. It is, they believe, something that you have some choice over.
“I know how wrong this is.
“When I was a child, I didn’t understand. I would wake up in a new body and wouldn’t comprehend why things felt muted, dimmer. Or the opposite–I’d be supercharged, unfocused, like a radio at top volume flipping quickly from station to station. Since I didn’t have access to the body’s emotions, I assumed the ones I was feeling were my own. Eventually, though, I realized these inclinations, these compulsions, were as much a part of the body as its eye color or its voice. Yes, the feelings themselves were intangible, amorphous, but the cause of the feelings was a matter of chemistry, biology.
“It is a hard cycle to conquer. The body is working against you. And because of this, you feel even more despair. Which only amplifies the imbalance. It takes uncommon strength to live with these things. But I have seen that strength over and over again.”
“There is a part of childhood that is childish, and a part that is sacred. Suddenly we are touching the sacred part — running to the shoreline, feeling the first cold burst of water on our ankles, reaching into the tide to catch at shells before they ebb away from our fingers. We have returned to a world that is capable of glistening, and we are wading deeper within it.”
For me this has been a fine trip to explore my youth in a variety of vantage points.
I liked the book.
- Wide Awake by David Levithan (clpbookbuzz.wordpress.com)
- David Levithan on his new novel cover art (acmartaus.wordpress.com)
- Top Ten Tuesday 2 (timeforreading.wordpress.com)