Young adult books aren't just for kids anymore. Just ask the respondents to a study recently released and often recirculated that claims over half the buyers of "teen" books these days are over 18. From "Hunger Games" to Harry Potter, older readers are gobbling up this genre.
David Levithan's fascinating new book, Every Day, is considered a novel for teens. Teens will love it, but I'd wager the appeal reaches far beyond that.
The premise is unusual – and some might say downright unbelievable. For the past 16 years, without warning of any kind, the narrator known only as A wakes up in a different life every single day. The new identity is always A's age, or close to it, but that's mostly where the similarity ends. A can be a boy or a girl, gay or straight, funny or downright cruel. A never gets attached to a family, to a school, or a group of friends.
It's important for A to function in the life he – or she – is given on any day. Therefore he must spend that 24 hours accessing information useful to the current situation. He must imagine he belongs. Or try to. That means forgetting who A was yesterday and all the days before. As he or she transfers identities from person to person, A forgets their details and moves on: "I have to, or else I will never remember who I really am."
So far, this seems to have worked. Then A meets the girlfriend of his body-of-the-day Justin. Her name is Rhiannon, and for the first time A is certain he can't forget this day and this person.
Relying on an elaborate system of newly-established email accounts and identities – and some serendipitous good luck – A is able to befriend Rhiannon without revealing who he is and he manages to stay connected to her while waking up with a new identity each day. No matter who he is, A is consumed with Rhiannon. Perhaps he can convince her to come with him, wherever fate pushes him. Because even when A tries to forget her, he can't. "Once you experience enormity, it lingers everywhere you look, and wants to be every word you say."
This is a classic love story, beautifully conceived and written, set in a framework so original that it feels like a story that's never been told. And really, it hasn't.
"Every Day" is compelling because it's almost impossible to predict a satisfactory ending. How will Levithan solve the complicated puzzle he's created in a way that won't cause readers to toss their books, hard, against the closest wall? I won't be telling you how – or even if – he does it. The book must be read.
Teens may read it and wonder what it would be like to experience such a disconnected life. How much pain could a person whose identity never stays constant inflict on society? What would be the consequence, what's the harm?
Is A is the only one whose existence changes daily? There are hints that others are just like A. (There are also rumors in the publishing world that another book, a sequel, are in Mr. Levithan's plans. Maybe wishful thinking. Maybe a case of loose ends yearning to be tied.)
For adult readers, whether you've previously been a fan of the teen genre or not, "Every Day" is the perfect place to begin. It's just that good.
Augusta Scattergood, author of "Glory Be," reviews children’s books for the Monitor.