Friday, September 21, 2012

Accumulating Wisdom

David Levithan
The narrator of Every Day by David Levithan, neither male nor female, simply called “A,” has literally lived the idea of “walking two moons in someone else’s moccasins.” Well, maybe not two moons, but 24 hours. And in those 24-hour snippets of someone else’s life—5,994 of them, by the time we meet A—the narrator has accumulated a great deal of knowledge about what makes us human.

A is also in the unique position of altering the host’s life. A essentially tries to live the Hippocratic Oath, “First do no harm.” A tries, for that day, to live the host’s life as the host himself or herself would. A keeps an e-mail account that serves as a journal, and seems to have acceptance around this experience of 24-hour immersions in someone else’s life—until Rhiannon comes along. For the first time, A wants to make the effort—and it requires a great deal of effort, since A changes bodies every midnight—to form a lasting relationship with someone.

A’s musings range from wondering about the nature of dreams—as when A dreams of Rhiannon: “I wonder: If I started dreaming when I was in Justin’s body, did he continue the dream?”—to thoughts of what would happen if A’s host died while A occupied it (would A have died, too?). But the narrator also thinks about what the experiences of thousands of days have taught A about the human condition.

On day 6000, when A goes to church as Roger Wilson, A shares a powerful insight that begins with religion but extends to the experience of what it means to be mortal: “Religions have much, much more in common than they like to admit…. Everybody wants to belong to something bigger than themselves, and everybody wants company in doing that…. They want to touch the enormity….” A suggests that no matter what religion or gender or race or geographic background, “we all have about 98 percent in common with each other” and we humans like to focus on “the 2 percent that’s different, and most of the conflict in the world comes from that.” For A, “The only way I can navigate through my life is because of the 98 percent that every life has in common.”

A makes us, as readers, the beneficiaries of the wisdom A has accumulated, day by day. We get to walk in other people’s moccasins together. We come away from Levithan's extraordinary novel asking ourselves what makes life meaningful, and how to be more active participants in our own lives. A reminds us that love "isn't the question... but it's not the answer either.... Love can't conquer anything. It can't do anything on its own. It relies on us to do the conquering on its behalf."


  1. Excellent review, Jenny. I ran right down to the basement and plucked the book out of my boxes of new YA to read today. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Judy, I'd love to hear what you think of the book! Levithan zeroes in on the questions so central to growing up. Thanks for writing!