*WARNING: Before you read there are some spoilers!
When it comes to reading, usually I just read for leisure. It is rare that I come across a book that gives me a completely new insight. However, David Levithan’s book, “Every Day” did just that, and even more. If you don’t know the story, I’ll break it down for you: “Every Day” is about a person, or a soul, shall I say that wakes up in a different body every single day. It has been this way all this person’s life, a new day, a new body. This person goes by A and A is only sixteen. A can only wake up in other bodies that are close to his age.
The gist of the story is that A falls in love with a girl after spending a day in her boyfriend’s body. After that day he spends the rest of his days trying to get back to her and eventually tries to find a way he can stay in one body. Now, you might be wondering what the appeal to this book is, besides the obvious, that A wakes up in a different body every day. Well at first I wasn’t quite sure either. This book had been on my must read for the longest time so I finally gave in and bought it.
At first I wondered how I would like this book. It had been a good few years since I was sixteen and I was wondering how I was going to relate to this protagonist (because let’s face it, anytime we read a book for fun, we search for a part of ourselves within the story). However, I quickly found out that it was easy to relate to A, especially as he jumped to different bodies. The thing about A living in a different body each day is that he can access memories of that person’s life. The person’s body that he’s in, their soul/mind doesn’t go away. It’s as if A is using their body as a host just for the day. A is kind and respects that person’s body, however when it comes to the body he inhabits for that day he only has so much control. For example, in the story it’s mentioned that he was once in the body of a person who was vegan. A, didn’t know that at first until they had McDonalds and became super sick. I found it interesting that the body still very much had control.
But it wasn’t until A woke up in the body of a person who had a mental illness did this book completely blow me away. Now I will say, I am no expert on depression. Sure, I’ve done my research and yes I know many people with it (including my Vietnam Veteran Dad, who has PTSD), but I’m not a doctor or anything. This is just my opinion on how this book explains depression. Anyways, back to the book!
The chapters are marked by days that he’s been waking up so in Day 6005 A wakes up in the body of a girl called Kelsea Cook. Kelsea Cook is not only severely depressed, but she is suicidal (A learns that throughout the day by going through her journal and finding that she has written graphically about ways to kill herself and even has a deadline). The thing that drew me in about this particular chapter was the way Levithan wrote it. Within the first page of the chapter he explains mental illness beautifully through A.
A says, “Some people think mental illness is a matter of mood, a matter of personality. They think depression is simply a form of being sad, that OCD is a form of being uptight. They think the soul is sick, not the body. It is, they believe something that you have some choice over. I know how wrong this is.” (Every Day, 119)
A then goes on to say, “It is a hard cycle to conquer. The body is working against you. And because of this, you feel even more despair. Which only amplifies the imbalance. It takes uncommon strength to live with these things. But I have seen that strength over and over again. When I fall into the life of someone grappling. I have to mirror their strength, and sometimes surpass it, because I am less prepared. I know the signs now. I know when to look for the pill bottles, when to let the body take its course. I have to keep reminding myself–-this is not me. It is chemistry. It is biology. It is not who I am. It is not who any of them are.” (Every Day, 119)
These two excerpts were so powerful to me that I dog-eared the pages. There is a stigma about mental illness that it is a choice. It is not. Clearly, it is not. As someone who has grown up with someone very close to them that lives with clinical depression and PTSD, I know for a fact that it is not a choice. If it were a choice, why would anyone choose to feel depressed? Why wouldn’t they choose happiness? It’s because it’s not something you can choose, nor is it something you have control over. Sure, there are things that can help you cope with it, but it is a mental illness and should be treated like any other illness, with care, compassion and consideration.
Another thing I like about these excerpts is that A says it’s not who they are. That is such a strong statement to me and such a great reminder that no matter what struggles you’re going through in life, it is important to remember that those things do not define you. Sure, they shape you and take part of who you are, but they are not the sole thing that define you. You are not your depression, you are not your anxiety, you are not your intrusive thoughts. You are strong, you persevere and you keep trying. That is who you are and Levithan does a great job of reminding us that.
Levithan also does an amazing job putting depression in a physical form, so readers can mentally picture it. A says, “Depression has been likened to both a black cloud and a black dog. For someone like Kelsea, the black cloud is the right metaphor. She is surrounded by it, immersed within it, and there is no way out. What she needs to do is try to contain it, get it into the form of the black dog. It will still follow her around wherever she goes; it will always be there. But at least it will be separate, and follow her lead.” (Every Day, 121)
I love this description of depression because it tells people that depression can change and shift. It is not always crippling and hindering. Some days are worse than others. Some days are manageable, some are not. I think that is something that people (even myself) tend to remain ignorant on. Depression is a spectrum and it doesn’t always look like the main symptoms Google provides when searched. It affects people differently, therefore one person’s depression won’t reflect someone else’s. The important thing is that when someone tells you something is wrong, whether it is a mental illness or their feelings are hurt, it is not up to you to decide if it’s valid or not. It’s up to you to be a good person and listen and hear them out, if that’s what they want.
All in all, through A’s journey, thanks to David Levithan, I now have a better understanding of depression as well as many other controversial topics. If you haven’t read this book, I highly encourage you to do so. It offers a beautiful, intriguing, heart-racing story, as well as many different perspectives on life. It’s rare when a book can change not only your mind, but your heart and this book has succeeded in doing so for me. I hope you read it with an open mind and reflect on the words that are written. It will change you, if you let it.