Where am I? What's going on? Who am I today? These are the questions that "A," the protagonist of the new young adult novel Every Day, asks every day when it wakes up and finds itself inhabiting a different body. For 24 hours, A takes over a person's consciousness, and at midnight, like a twisted fairy tale, A moves on and the body reverts to its original owner. There are a few rules: It's always someone roughly A's age, and the person is always within close proximity to the prior day's host. Dropping into A's life is an eye-opening, heartbreaking ride through a cast of teenagers: the jock, the diva, the suicidal loner, the mean girl, and the twin. "I didn't know where I was going, no checklist in my head of who to explore," author David Levithan admitted. "But it was interesting to see how they cohered together, played off each other, were variations." A doesn't think too much about inhabiting the body of an Asian girl one day, and a black guy, paraplegic, or gay person the next. That is, until A wakes up in the body of a boy with a sweet, underappreciated girlfriend. Suddenly, A wants to stop the body-snatching and stick around.
A and love interest Rhiannon spend one perfect day together during which A tries to explain the situation. Yet Rhiannon can't quite accept holding hands and kissing A as cheerleader Megan, or snuggling with A as Vic, who was born male but is gendered female. "I think the interesting thing is that A is genderless, raceless, has no parents, no friends from childhood, and is self-constructed self, not society-constructed," Levithan said. "Because A has lived outside of that for sixteen years, the entirety of life, [that] gives A a perspective I don't think we have. It would be a massively different book if it was a boy/girl who woke up one morning realizing they were in someone else's body." Will Rhiannon be able to accept A for what's inside, and ignore the constantly changing physical wrapping?
Levithan, half of the writing duo behind the movie Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist, doesn't want to give away too much about the plot of Every Day, from which he'll read at Barnes & Noble (6050 El Cerrito Plaza, El Cerrito) on Wednesday, October 10. "I've talked to many people who tried to apply A's life to themselves — who would I be if I wasn't defined by all these things? I don't think you have to do that to appreciate the book, but ... sometimes the most simple question can and should lead to a whole re-examination of who you are."
Every Day explores gender roles on a simple, yet thought-provoking level. Readers may start off intrigued by the facts of A's life, but ultimately the book attempts to answer to the most human of questions: Does love truly conquer all? 6 p.m., free. 510-524-0087 or BarnesandNoble.com