What a unique story! Seriously, I have never read anything like this. And right when I thought I was getting used to the author’s voice or used to the changes the main character kept having to make, something else would happen entirely and surprise me some more. I have an ARC that I checked out from my library, but I seriously need to purchase my own copy of this novel.
It’s about A, a person who changes every day, literally. Every day, A wakes up as someone else. There’s things A has learned to expect. He/she only wakes up in people the same age as he/she is. The only way A can move to a new location is if A is in the body of someone who takes a trip or moves away themselves. Also, gender, race, ethnicity, and religion have absolutely no effect on anything; A can be anyone.
A also has his/her own set of rules for things. For starters, A never wants to greatly change the life he/she is borrowing for the day. There is no leaving bodies anywhere but their beds (except for one time). A tries to live the day as the person would (usually going to school or work or helping with the family). A has illegally worked as a maid, has been fat, has dated a jerk, has lived with psychotic families, has been in the body of potheads, and has seriously lived in every possible scenario. I can easily see how this book could have become an after school special about what not to do with your life –but it so never breached that boundary. Usually A hopes for something simple, but a lot of time A gets something really tough and complicated.
For instance, becoming a depressed girl, who has a set date for upcoming suicide, was really hard. A doesn’t ever change the lives of the people he/she’s in, but should there be exceptions to this rule? If he/she can stop a death, should he/she? Or if A can help a boy stand up to his terrible parents, should he/she? And where is the line between A and the people he/she borrows for the day? Does A have his/her own personality or is A just as good as the person he/she is for the day?
And all of A’s questions seriously take another turn when A falls in love with the girlfriend of the person he/she’s inhabiting on one particular day. A begins to do a little bit more for him/herself. A even tells the girl about his/her life and starts each day be figuring how far away he/she is located from said girl. And then it’s not just how much A can tolerate all these changes, but how much the girl can too. And can anyone really love someone who is a different person every time they see him/her? How much does gender, race, social class, religion, etc. really matter?
This book addresses everything from gender stereotypes, to homosexual relationships, to biases about weight, to teen suicide, and to religious zealotry. It really makes readers question how important the visual is. A goes to gay pride celebrations, funerals, Sunday services, tutoring sessions, libraries, schools, houses, parties, and each time as someone else. And while this all seems insanely lonely, and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for A most of the time, A occasionally will have things like this to say (note I copied this quote from a Quotation Page on GoodReads because I could be giving the wrong words from an ARC):
“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.”
So, even though A never really gets to know what having a best friend or having a family is like (or at least what having one common best friend or family is like), A gets to experience something so significant and amazing; A gets to experience a life completely and utterly free of prejudice. A learns to focus on the 98% of people’s similarities and not how each person is different. And I have to include this as well (also from the quote page on GoodReads):
“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 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.”
This is a book I wish I were capable of memorizing and quoting in front of people. Some of the things mentioned in here are just so profound and powerful. It’s the kind of book that has you thinking about it days (and most likely months and years) after you finish reading it. It had me question how I see things and wishing I could be as real and true and understanding as A. The sacrifices A makes every day are so sincere and honest and heart-wrenching. I really wanted things to work out for A and Rhiannon. And while I really, really was hoping for explanations and more answers for A’s life, I also get how much better this book was without such direct answers.
One last quote (promise): “There will always be more questions. Every answer leads to more questions. The only way to survive is to let some of them go.” This book gets a 10/10 from me. I cannot stop thinking about it. And David Levithan is one seriously brave, unique, and beautiful writer. I recommend this one to everyone.