I’ll admit it, I am not the world’s biggest supporter of Young Adult literature. To me, it has always been overrated. Overrated in the sense that they’re homogenous; it’s the same story every time. Boy falls in love with girl, girl’s angst over high school algebra dramatically improves, one of them is likely a supernatural being from some planet where sparkle canisters shoot from their butts, the other’s probably a vampire…you know, that stuff. These motifs were at some point unique of course, no one is saying that sparkle butt werewolves from outer space aren’t creative, it’s just evolved into a genre of needless choose your own adventure books. Same story, different setting. Teens are a lot smarter than that and deserve unique novels that’ll make them think and not insult their intelligence.
I have found a book, though not fully escaping some of the Young Adult tropes, that does take this genre in a new and intelligent direction: David Levithan’s Every Day. The story is about the character, A and their life, as a consciousness, jumping from body to different body every single day. Yes. That’s right. I said they because A is not only bodiless, but is genderless as well. I am so surprised that the queer community has not more widely embraced and praised this novel for its nonbinary representation. Actually, scratch that, queer representation in general.
A falls in love with a girl, Rhiannon and meets with her numerous times while in different bodies. A can be a girl with Rhiannon some days, a boy others, and even within the body of a transgender boy (which, as a trans man myself, I think is spot on). Their relationship with each other brings up a lot of the struggles that the queer community goes through as well as offers readers an interesting perspective on the definition of identity.
The novel does a magnificent job of exploring the gravity of A’s situation and its effect on others, especially Rhiannon. An argument could be made that Rhiannon is a horrible person at the novel’s end, but I would say that she remains a well written character because her flaws are realistic. Which, in the end, this is not showing queer issues in a bad light, but instead presenting the sadness that comes with those that don’t understand.
All in all, though it has its moments of generic Young Adult-ness, it is also exactly the movement away from the genre’s generic-ness that we need. Mostly, it’s important due to its realistic representation. I focus on queer issues here, but the novel has other ways of celebrating the differences in race, size, gender, and being of the younger generations. More people should read this book, since it provides a colorful portrayal of identity that most homogenous YA novels lack.