Honest and lively YA book reviews
There are people in this world who love women. There are people in this world who love men. There are people in this world who love men and women. There are people who want to dress like a boy, and there are people who want to dress like a girl. And there are people who just want to dress in whatever way they feel comfortable. There are people in this world who follow a specific religion. There are people who follow no religion. There are people who follow their own edited version of faith and belief. There are people who are black, brown, white, pink and every shade in between. There are people who speak Spanish, or Chinese, or English, or any other number of the 6500 languages spoken around the world today. There are people who don't speak at all. There are people in this world who have mobility challenges, learning challenges, social challenges, mental health challenges. There are people who grow up quickly and there are people who like to take their time. There are millions of variations of tastes, desires, facial feature arrangement, values and everything else that makes us who we are. Get over it.
Every Day by David Levithan is one fucked up logic train, but the values and ideas it holds are beautiful.
"no matter what religion or gender or race or geographic background, we all have 98% 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 - wether you believe in God or Yahweh or something else, odds are that at heart you want the same things. For whatever reason, we like to focus on the 2% that's different, and most of the conflict in the world comes from that."
The story goes that A is an entity who does not possess a body, instead inhabiting a different body each day, never for more than one day. A has grown used to this way of life and has settled into this bizarre routine until along comes Rhiannon and A falls in love, finally finding a reason to long to stay put.
So yeah, the premise is strange. But that's not what I loved about this story. The rules are too riddled with holes for me to really get on board. No. What I loved about Every Day are all the things we can learn from A's unique perspective and outlook on life.
Here in the UK gay marriage was legalised in July this year. There were many silly oppositions to this decision including: "It would diminish the role of women" and "Marriage can only exist for heterosexual couples" and "Removing the requirement for consummation from marriage will lead to inter-sibling unions" These are actual quoted concerns raised in the House of Lords. I mean, what the fuck are they smoking in there, man?! These oppositions are insane!! Diminish the role of women?! Brothers and sisters getting married?! What the fuck?! It is clear that we need more education for these Lords on what real life is. Women are not, and should never have been simply a uterus on legs guys!! Our "role" is not to get married and have babies. I'm a passionate, confident, independent woman. I'm career driven, out-spoken, educated and an individual. My role in society cannot ever be diminished because I am a human being, same as any man walking down the street. It shouldn't be a case of here's a man and here's a woman. No. Here are two individuals. Here are two human beings with unique value. Everyone has value, wether man, woman, heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual. Everyone has something to bring to the table and everyone deserves the same rights, respect and recognition within society.
I don't get the whole anti-gay situation. I don't understand why it's a problem for people to be themselves, express themselves and feel a freedom about their lifestyle and who they love. I don't understand why some people find it so hard to accept it as a reality in our world. Because in the grand scheme of things, it's actually not a big deal. Society generally has moved on from marriage being about procreation and has come to see it as an expression of love and commitment. And some people happen to love someone who is the same gender as themselves. Why is that such a big issue?
Every Day illustrates this beautifully:
"I have never fallen in love with a gender. I have fallen for individuals. I know this is hard for people to do, but I don't understand why it's so hard, when it's so obvious."
A is neither female or male. Neither straight nor gay. A just is. A loves whoever A loves and accepts whichever skin is today's skin. There's never a question of discomfort, or not belonging because the characters in the book are not shoehorned into boxes and labelled like so often happens in our society. Why should a person be defined by their sexuality? What does it matter what colour a person's skin happens to be? Why should gender be thought of as a black and white linear description of a person? Why can't a person make this decision for themselves? Some biological men feel feminine, some biological women feel masculine. So what?! Why is this met with ridicule, disbelief and even disgust all too often?!
A spends a lot of time asking Rhiannon to see past the skin on the outside, see past the gender, see past the physical manifestation and see A underneath. To appreciate the person A is - the kind, generous, accepting, open-minded person. Nobody deserves to be judged by their packaging which is what we do when we judge people by their clothing, their appearance, their skin colour.
People fear instability, chaos, uncertainty. We like to know where we stand. So this leads to labelling, which leads to exclusion, which leads to resentment. Why don't we ditch this obsession with having everything all neatly boxed up and tagged and just roll with whatever comes our way? Why don't we ditch the norms and experience the world as an adventure? Why don't we aim to discover new things, new people, new ideas every day and give ourselves as rich and fulfilling a world experience as we can? This can only come by losing our expectations and judgements of others and accepting everyone for who they are on the inside as Rhiannon must learn to do in regards to A. Maybe A is a boy or a girl or black or white or gay or straight, but it's still A in there.
A's and Rhiannon's relationship is unconventional and a bit ridiculous. A falls crazy in love with Rhiannon the moment she bobs into view, which she herself points out is a bit mental as they barely even know each other. But I feel like this was necessary for plot progression so whatevs. I went with it. And the development of this relationship was actually really sweet and interesting. A cannot ever live an ordinary life, growing old with someone, know every inch of them, being together and being grounded as the very nature of A's existence is nomadic. It's a difficult realisation for A that no matter how incredible it would be to be the same as everyone else, sometimes it's unavoidable to be different. And that's okay. We have to play the hand that's dealt to us in life. We have no choice. We're only gifted one shot at this, there's nothing more to do than make the very best out of it that we can. So A does the right thing. He doesn't go down the road of manipulating his "gift" for his own gain. That is why I feel like the end is perfect. He doesn't get what he truly wants which is to be with Rhiannon, but he is able to live his life with his integrity intact, with his head held high knowing he did the right thing.
Such a sweet and beautiful book. So surprising and filled with little gems. I think there are a lot of important points made in this story - about acceptance, love, growing up and moving on and David Levithan has woven if all wonderfully into this adorable little book. There's nothing pretentious or stilted, or preaching about the writing. It's just quietly asking us to think about a few things in a new direction. Politely urging us to live in the moment, take each day as it comes and to grab each opportunity with both hands without letting prejudices or expectations or judgements get in the way. So go!! Go now!! And have a great time doing it!!