If you doubt, question, or undermine the complexity or rigor of young adult literature, read Everyday by David Levithan. Despite the book’s bland beige and gray cover, there is nothing dull or colorless about this story. It is a philosophical and, in my opinion, a political statement that calls into question what it means to be an individual in today’s world.
In the book, A is a genderless soul that inhabits a different body everyday (hence the title). The conflict is that A, in the first chapter, falls in love with Rhiannon, the girlfriend of a boy whose body A currently inhabits. Don’t worry; it isn’t as confusing as it sounds. This simple love story leads its readers to question what defines gender and even love as A inhabits different bodies throughout the book. Furthermore, A questions what the difference is between the soul and the body and how they can function as one or even two distinct beings.
David Levithan captures the beauty and innocence of being human through the simple yet straight forward perspective of A, an old soul with deep knowledge: “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.” A goes on to one of my favorite passages of the book, a passage that is great for book talking and providing a brief teaser without giving anything away.
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.
“I learn. Sometimes I am taught something I have already been taught in dozens of others classrooms. Sometimes I am taught something completely new. I have to access the body, access the mind and see what information it’s retained. And when I do, I learn. Knowledge is the only thing I take with me when I go” (Levithan 6).
As a teacher, it is easy to love this passage. After all, it ends with the value of learning, but beyond that, this page (the entirety of page 6) shows A’s struggle with defining him/herself as an individual. Not only is there minimal diversification in the sentence starters, but A uses the personal pronoun “I” 25 times in just one page: “I would,” “I took,” “I felt,” “I am,” etc. This practice goes against the rule of what we oftentimes teach to young writers—stray away from using I at the beginning of every sentence. Levithan’s willingness to break the rules and question the norm is what makes this piece both a masterful mentor text and thought provoking must-read.