ARC Review: Another Day by David Levithan

I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley. This in no way affects my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ANOTHER DAY.inddAnother Day by David Levithan (Companion novel to Every Day) (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 25 August 2015)

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ANOTHER DAY is the companion novel to EVERY DAY, which details the story of A, who wakes up every morning in a different body, living every day in a different life. ANOTHER DAY is told from the perspective of Rhiannon, a girl whom A meets while in the body of Rhiannon's boyfriend, Justin. Justin isn't very good to Rhiannon, and all of Rhiannon's friends see this, but Rhiannon convinces herself that they don't really know. She loves Justin and she can't leave him. But one day, Justin is completely different. He skips school with her to go to the beach, and they have the most amazing day together. Soon, Rhiannon learns that it wasn't really Justin that day – it was someone else wearing Justin's body, and that someone else has fallen in love with her. As A keeps meeting Rhiannon in different bodies, Rhiannon can't help but feel their connection too. In ANOTHER DAY, we see Rhiannon struggling with her feelings for Justin and A at the same time, and fighting the difficulties of loving someone whose physical appearance changes every day and who can never stay in the same life for more than one day.

I've read EVERY DAY by David Levithan, but that was when it came out in 2012, and my book memory has always been terrible. (I honestly thought it came out like, five years ago, I remember so little about it.) So I am pretty much judging ANOTHER DAY entirely by its own merits, and I can't really tell you how well this book works as a companion novel, per se. But as a novel, I think it works pretty brilliantly.

Of course, I've always been a huge David Levithan fan. That's no secret. But EVERY DAY, as far as I can remember, didn't impress me as much as most of his other books did. (Maybe I'd feel differently if I reread it now.) ANOTHER DAY, on the other hand, is really, really good.

I think in some ways this book was always going to be more my thing. The narrator is Rhiannon, a 16-year-old girl. She's quite ordinary. She goes to high school. She has a boyfriend whom she thinks she loves but who's actually kind of a prick; she just refuses to see it. She's not particularly popular but she has some lovely friends. I loved living inside Rhiannon's head while I was reading this book. I could relate to her so so much. There's something so incredibly real about the way Levithan describes how it feels to be in a relationship with someone who isn't all that good for you, but being unable to truly acknowledge it while you're in that relationship, clinging onto and magnifying the few good moments and brushing aside everything bad. Trapped and yet unwilling to leave because you're so sure there's something that makes this relationship worth it.

Levithan's descriptions of Rhiannon's feelings about her relationship with Justin are so insightful that they really helped me gain some perspective on some things in my own life, and I'm really grateful to Levithan for that. I also think that watching Rhiannon figure out what love and attraction mean to her in the face of her relationship with A is really wonderful and thought-provoking. It's very realistic, as well. She isn't able to always feel attracted to A no matter what body A's in. Physical appearance, in the end, does matter hugely to her. It's important that this book isn't idealistic, and it makes it so much more interesting to read about because Rhiannon is just as flawed as the rest of us.

I do have one or two complaints, however.

Like I said, I don't remember much about EVERY DAY, so I don't know if it happens there as well, but something that did irk me in ANOTHER DAY was when A wakes up in the body of a trans boy called Vic, and when he meets Rhiannon in that body, Rhiannon is super confused about what gender Vic is supposed to be, and she continually misgenders him, using the pronouns "she/her" instead, and I think A does as well, or at least he doesn't correct Rhiannon at all. Now, I honestly think that Levithan mostly does a great job with exploring the complexities of gender in the character of A, who is neither male nor female, but both, and I like how he shows Rhiannon adapting to these ideas and puzzling them out in her mind, but I was immensely disappointed by this bit.

Misgendering trans people is something truly harmful. Vic is a trans boy. He's not a girl. I know that Levithan is of course constrained by what he has already written in EVERY DAY, published three years ago, but to me it felt like a particularly good opportunity to discuss pronouns in YA (maybe to even bring up the topic of gender-neutral pronouns, since Rhiannon spends the whole book struggling to think of A as necessarily either he or she) and to educate readers about how to use pronouns correctly, an opportunity that went wasted.

I was also worried about the part in this novel where Rhiannon mentioned being suicidal before she met Justin. She says that for her, Justin came along and pretty much solved her problem: she wasn't really suicidal anymore, after she met him. She then decides that for most people who are suicidal, love is really what they need, and this is written in the book as if it's a truth that we should all accept. But I don't accept that. It's a very misleading viewpoint. Plenty of people commit suicide even though they're very much loved. Love can sometimes help a little, but it doesn't always, and it certainly can't cure depression or other mental illnesses.

Complaints aside, I really loved the experience of reading ANOTHER DAY – and it truly was an experience, and a beautiful one as Levithan's books tend to be. I felt immersed in Rhiannon's feelings and I sympathised with her so much. I have to say that I found the ending a little abrupt – after the last sentence, I kept pressing for the next page on my Kindle when there wasn't actually one. But I think I'm just sad to be wrenched away from Rhiannon's life so suddenly when I felt like I'd made a cosy home in her head and I just want to linger for a little while longer. Just another day, if I may.

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