If you are writing YA fiction, you need to read this book.
Every Day is a perfect example of how a powerful concept can drive the plot. “A,” is a sixteen-year-old consciousness that changes bodies every day. I’ll defer to the pronoun “he” to describe A, though lack of a consistent body means A has no permanent gender. He also has no permanent race, religion, etc.–a concept which allows Levithan to test the parameters by which we define ourselves.
Teenagers are people at a very unique point in their lives as they are working to define exactly who they are. That makes the concept of A all the more powerful—this teenager who defines himself not by the above mentioned categories but by his own moral code. He tries as much as possible not to disturb the lives of the teenagers whose bodies he’s borrowing, but in doing so, he sacrifices his own ability to “find himself.” His character can have no arc—no development and, as a result, no life.
That is…until he falls in love. A meets Rhiannon, an aptly named girl who exhibits the same open, excepting qualities he values in himself. And of course it doesn’t hurt that she has the same taste in music. She takes him out of his comfort zone because–suddenly–he wants nothing more than to see this same person every day. This is regardless of what body he happens to be wearing. He wants, against all odds, to develop a relationship with this girl—a happenstance that will, in turn, develop A as a character.
Writers, this is how to do it. Begin with a strong concept that challenges genre, structure, archetypes, etc. and built around it. Levithan’s book is not just about an unlikely romance. It’s not just about a kid with an unwanted power, and it isn’t just about the unique challenges and choices faced by teenagers. It’s all of the above and more. It’s the incredibly powerful intersection of those things and the conclusions Levithan comes to when playing with those narrative layers. It’s art as art is meant to be—a mirror to life.
This book is an excellent read for any YA writer because its high concept mechanism challenges the genre, but that’s not the only reason you should pick up this book.
A side effect of A constantly being thrown into a new body is Levithan’s need to quickly and vividly paint new characters. Granted, some of these characters are walking stereotypes, ostensibly created so that A can mentally berate them for their behavior, but for the most part, this book is an excellent study on how to introduce a character and show a measure of depth with only a few lines.
Levithan also strives to show many different teenagers facing a range of problems from normal teenage woes to incredible strife. This makes the book an interesting read for those of us who have a tendency to write the same characters over and over. Perhaps, like A, you will fall in love with this book, and it will draw you out of your comfort zone. You will keep coming back, each time discovering more possibilities that will add realism to your writing. Perhaps you will finally develop. 🙂
Michelle Joyce Bond
photo credit and author site: www.davidlevithan.com