You wanna know what makes a quality young adult romance? One that really sticks out from the pack and just kicks you right in the nuts of your heart?
That's right. There is no romance more exciting to read than one that centres around really inconvenient love. Figuring out how to love someone when you both have cancer? Inconvenient. Deciding whether or not you should return to consciousness post-auto accident for your boyfriend? Super inconvenient. Trying to love someone you thought was a girl but then turned out to be a boy? Definitely not on the list of the top ten most convenient things.
Of course, those three scenarios refer to some of my recent favorite lurve-themed YA books: John Green's The Fault In Our Stars, Gayle Forman's If I Stay and Brian Katcher's Almost Perfect. They are brilliant in different ways (and of course deal with many other themes beyond love), but all feature characters who must really, seriously give 'er to earn what their heart desires. I think this theme of inconvenient love is so powerful that it can even carry a the book in the absence of really terrible writing (see: Twilight).
But what does all this talk of inconvenience have to do with David Levithan's new book, Every Day? It is officially one of the most inconvenient cases of love I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The book's main character, simply called A, wakes up in the body of a different person every day. The body might belong to a male or female, a straight, gay or bisexual person, a person of any race - the only consistency is that all the bodies belong to sixteen-year-old people. This is all going along fine until A meets Rhiannon. A falls in love with Rhiannon. And then things get SUPER INCONVENIENT. Because how can you love someone when you have a different body every day? How the heck can that possibly work?
It's a conundrum and a half, and that is why Every Day is so addictive. As readers, we want to find out how someone in such an impossibly difficult, inconvenient situation could make it work. Because if some genderless being with no body can make it work in love, then certainly we all have a shot, right?
This novel is not only exceptional in its premise, but in the brilliant points it subtly makes about the fluidity and elusive nature of gender. Is this the first YA romance featuring a protagonist with no assigned gender? I think so. And that is a really big deal. When this book inevitably becomes a Hollywood blockbuster, I just hope that A remains genderless, and we don't discover at the end that the character's "true" form is actually Taylor Lautner. Or Selena Gomez. Or the dog from The Artist.
And, like every David Levithan book, Every Day is dripping with descriptions of emotions and feelings that are normally impossible to put into words. I swear that there is something on every page of his books that I want to have printed on a t-shirt so I can run out into the street and shout "This is exactly how I feel! Don't you ever feel like this too!?"
If the human heart had a spokesperson, if would be David Levithan.
No offense, Maya Angelou.