As with Gone Girl, I feel like I’m making a fairly unoriginal recommendation here, but Every Day by David Levithan is so good that I will be the latest in a long line of people saying how awesome it is. In fact, when Anna and I saw John Green speak recently, he even specifically recommended this book to the audience. (He and Levithan wrote another awesome book together called Will Grayson, Will Grayson, so they’re clearly friends, but it’s a good recommendation nonetheless.)
Okay, stay with me here, because this is going to sound odd. Every Day is about a teenager who wakes up every morning in the body of someone else. Sometimes it’s a boy, sometimes it’s a girl, but it’s always a teenager, and always someone within a few hours of the person the day before. On one day the main character (who has no name and no gender) falls in love with a girl, and after a lifetime of floating through bodies without leaving a trace, there is suddenly a reason to try to take control and get back to this girl.
Now, this sounds pretty high-concept and I held off reading this book for a while–it sounded sort of overdone and like it would be a slog. But the writing is clean and elegant, and the conceit of changing bodies every day comes to feel normal very soon, allowing the reader to focus on the story. Levithan not only makes his central idea functional, but by the end of the book it seems almost normal–plausible, even.
It’s not a cheery book–I’m going to call it “tinged with sadness”–but it’s both a good story and an impressive feat of writing. Made even more impressive because reading it doesn’t feel like it takes any effort at all.
I promise that I don’t only read YA books. I’ve actually read a number of fancy grown-up books lately that I’m planning to write about, but first I’ve got to talk about one more YA book, because it apparently the hottest thing around right now–The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
Now, Green is a big deal in YA circles and he has written a number of well-received and well-loved books, including Looking for Alaska and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (that one was with David Levitan). Plus, he and his brother have this whole YouTube thing where they post videos and, I don’t know, they also sing or something? To be honest, I don’t really understand all of this because I don’t like watching videos online. Yes, yes, I am very old, I just think that the computer is for reading and the TV is for moving pictures. But apparently kids today love all that video stuff, and you can read more about the whole John Green thing at the Kidliterate review.
His latest book, which debuted at Number 1 on the New York Times Children’s Chapter Books List (you know, the one created so Harry Potter wouldn’t knock all the pretentious adult books off the NYT list) is about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love. Cheerful, I know. But the thing about John Green is that it doesn’t really matter what any of his books are about, exactly–his strength is his characters and dialogue. He’s got a sharp sense of humor and creates teenagers who are precocious and flawed and funny and real. His voice is so strong and specific that each time I open one of his books I feel like a crisp breeze blows out of the pages.
One of my favorite sources of book recommendations on the Internet is Elizabeth at Princess Nebraska and she wrote a review of The Fault in Our Stars that pretty much says everything I want to say. I found it really interesting that she says that the first of Green’s books she read was Looking for Alaska and it was still her favorite. The first of his books I read was Paper Towns and it’s still my favorite, so I wonder if Green’s stuff is so striking that you’re always bound to love the one you first read the most. So while The Fault in Our Stars isn’t my favorite, it’s definitely very good and I would highly recommend any of John Green’s stuff. And I suppose you could watch some of his videos too, since I hear they’re popular with the young folks.