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Book review: “Every Day” by David Levithan

As young adult novels go, “Every Day” by David Levithan is a pleasant read. It’s one of the books that attracted me with its fascinating premise rather than its writing style, which is plain and sparse enough that the writing itself fades into the background of the story (and I’m fine with that).

The main character, “A,” wakes up in a different body each day and has done so since his/her earliest memories. His sex, gender identity, race, and mental/physical health conditions change according to the body occupied for the day. I’m going to say “he/his/him” for the rest of this review because that seemed to be his usual gender identity and also for simplicity’s sake in discussing this.

There are a few spoilers below (mostly just the first bullet). Don’t say I didn’t warn you. (But after all, this is a 2012 book, right?)

Things I liked

His love interest, Rhiannon, realizes that love alone isn’t always enough to make a relationship work. More young women should be emotionally and mentally strong enough to separate “want” from “not good for me.” She’s honest when she tells him that the complications of his existence aren’t part of the life she wants. (Reminds me of when I broke up with a long-ago boyfriend who was a decent enough guy but not quite right for me. He was headed toward a future I didn’t want, and I didn’t see myself living a contented life with someone who “joked” by constantly putting me down. Dominance in the relationship was a must-have for him. Also, he felt as if I had to stay with him unless I convinced him that the decision was right, as if dating implies a marital contract and I required his permission to leave.)

The book explores some of the “how” puzzles and the “what if” complications that make the premise so pleasing. What if that day’s body is depressed or injured? What’s his moral responsibility to save or help that person, or at least not fuck up that person’s life with the day’s actions? Does the person whose body is occupied retain any memories? What’s it like to be a gay person and feel utterly at home in that person’s skin? What’s the range of how far he jumps into another body? What if he’s not alone? Can he learn any control of the process? Are there others like him who haven’t developed a moral compass? How much does the mind have to struggle with the body and its needs, flaws or addictions? (Quite a lot, actually.)

Getting it just right: The description of jumping into a suicidal girl’s life for a day felt very real.

The book leaves some questions unanswered: I like not having every conclusion spoonfed to me, so my imagination can fill in the blanks. What’s the mechanism for his consciousness jumping? What in his life led him to have a moral compass? What are his views on religion? What has helped him cope with the loneliness? How did he escape becoming mentally ill?

It wasn’t a Pollyanna ending. I’m usually ambivalent about endings that aren’t heartwarming, but this one worked, at least logically. He made a selfless decision that was right for the girl he loved, a decision that was true to his values. But my heart ached for hm just a little. It was a bittersweet ending, and I wanted a glimimer of happily-ever-after possibilities for him, even in the far future. (Then again, he’s just 16. There’s a lot of life ahead.)

Things that made me think “Meh”

I didn’t like the cover. It looks like a fancy ARC rather than a fully designed book. It wasn’t enough to deter me from buying it, obviously, but I wouldn’t have explored this book if not for the recommendation of a reviewer I like.

The one thing I really detested

The last quarter-inch thickness of pages is a separate prequel story about the same main character. So that meant that the ending sneaked up on me. SO disappointing when I was expecting a richer closure to the book. It just STOPPED. I wanted to pinch the author and drag him back to his keyboard and say, “No, no, no, no, no. Uh-uh. Get back to work, buddy. Seriously, damn it.”

Hmmpf. I’m still miffed.

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Writing Prompt for June 29, 2016 – Darkness

8421501433_d514a7b626_oIntro: I’m not sure this writing prompt exercise is going to be just the ticket for me; 60 seconds is pretty much a blink of the eye. But here goes with the One-Minute Writer Prompt for June 29, 2016. I’ll give this daily writing exercise a week and re-evaluate. This is Day Three.

Topic: Dark. (That’s it. It’s a “One-Word Wednesday” prompt that you can grab and run with in any direction you like. Cool.)

My write-up: I’m a big fan of dark humor — the kind that lets me weather the pain, anger or just outrage related to a disturbing topic. I think humor is social grease that we all need to use so we aren’t so abrasive to each other, even when talking about difficult things.

My thoughts after today’s writing prompt: This is something I already knew about myself. 🙂

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Sane gun control: We can do this

gun sales sign

This is a spoof of a sign, but our lax gun laws might as well say something like this. Source: Flickr.com; some rights reserved. The Flickr photographer obtained this from StopGunViolence.org.

 

People who know me now wouldn’t recognize my politics back in the day. I used to vote as a Republican. Now I’m about as liberal as it gets. I also come from rural Mississippi and have deep roots in conservatism, country, and Southern culture, so I’m the odd man out when it comes to most residents in my native state or where I live now (Tennessee). My personal political arc may explain to you why a dedicated liberal like me somehow has so many conservative friends and family members who violently disagree with my views. They haven’t changed, but I have.

One of the things we knock heads about is gun control. It’s a bleeding-edge news topic every freaking week in our gun-happy country, but they’re just all shrugs and “More guns!” about it. (They totally want to say, “Thaaaaaaaanks, Obama,” too.)

Our country is seeing too many mass killings. Our cities (like nearby Memphis, Tenn.) are overrun with individual shootings and murders. The weekly police and sheriff reports I edit for my small newspaper almost always have a few cases of someone being robbed or threatened while looking down the barrel of a gun. We are fearful but complacent. But numbness and denial won’t protect us.

Enough is enough.

I stand 100% for stricter gun control laws. I stand with the 100+ organizations that are members of the Campaign to Stop Gun Violence. If I had my druthers, here’s what gun sales and ownership would look like in the U.S.:

  • Forbidding people on the terrorism watch list from buying or owning guns.
  • Required gun safety and maintenance training before guns can be purchased.
  • Required gun liability insurance before guns can be purchased and before permits can be renewed. Even the freakin’ National Rifle Association (NRA) recommends buying this kind of insurance; see their endorsed policies here. I think it should be mandatory. Here’s what the NRA-endorsed policies would charge you as of June 22, 2016. It’s not that expensive, folks. Less than $17/month if you want their MOST expensive policy.
    NRA-gun-insurance-6-22-16
  • Stricter scrutiny of applicants seeking to buy guns. I just read the Senate version of the  “Fix Gun Checks Act of 2016” (SB2934) and see that there’s a mile-wide list of exceptions that should make gun fans feel relieved. How can anyone with a conscience oppose this?
  • Commonsense restrictions on open carry practices. I feel less safe, not more, with armed knuckleheads and their itchy trigger fingers busily patrolling the aisles of stores. (Business owners: When I’m in your store and I see a weapon on someone other than a trained law enforcement officer in uniform, I leave without making a purchase.)

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