Friday, March 4, 2016

ANOTHER DAY


ANOTHER DAY by DAVID LEVITHAN
(companion to EVERY DAY)

When I first heard that Levithan had written a follow-up to EVERY DAY, I felt very excited and eager to continue A’s adventures, especially since the first book left off on a bit of a cliffhanger. Here’s where clarification is important: ANOTHER DAY is not a sequel but a companion. If you’re excited to get your hands on the next installment in A’s story, this is not that book. So what is it? The same story as EVERY DAY, but told from Rhiannon’s perspective instead of A’s.

As soon as I realized this was a same-story-different-perspective book, I filled with trepidation. I have never read one I liked. To be blunt, I find re-telling the same book lazy. To generalize, I think with a good book we learn what we need to know about every character from what the author provides, so when an author publishes the same story from another character’s perspective to fill in blanks I only feel cheated by the omission of any important information from the original book. All that said, I adore everything I’ve read by Levithan and am a big believer in Trust The Author. (At least when the author has earned it.) So on I read.

And my reaction is mixed. In some ways, ANOTHER DAY falls into the inevitable traps of this kind of book that are exactly why I don’t like these books in the first place: we already know this story and a lot of the plot and dialogue is word for word the same as what we already read. As expected, however, Levithan pulled through and I enjoyed this one nevertheless.

Both books keep very close to their lead characters. A great portion of the prose is devoted to their thoughts. A’s thoughts in the case of EVERY DAY and Rhiannon’s in the case of ANOTHER DAY. Because so much of the text fixates on inner monologue more than action or dialogue, a great deal did feel different. And I will admit that it was interesting to hear Rhiannon’s thoughts on the same events.

Let me back up a little and specify that you do not need to read EVERY DAY first. As Levithan himself states, he wrote this book so you can read both or only one - either one. And in case, if you aren’t familiar with EVERY DAY, let me provide a little context. It’s the story about A, a teenager without a body to call their own, who wakes up “borrowing” someone else’s body (and hence that person’s entire life) for a single day. This means that A doesn’t have a steady family, home, friends, appearance, gender, belongings. A lives a very different kind of life.

In A’s story we read about their efforts to convince Rhiannon this craziness is real while in Rhiannon’s we get to see how she can slowly accept something so mind bogglingly impossible.

However, some of my criticisms of the first book only increase by reading the second. Two in particular: Rhiannon’s character and her relationship with her boyfriend Justin. In my review of EVERY DAY, I remarked that I didn’t understand why A finds Rhiannon so utterly exceptional. Well, the same is as much or more true from seeing through her eyes. While there is plenty to admire about Rhiannon, there are also plenty of flaws - and neither her strengths nor flaws strike me as particularly unique. As for her boyfriend Justin, in EVERY DAY I couldn’t understand why she was with such an obvious jerk. From A’s perspective Justin has no redeeming qualities and in the end Rhiannon seems like a push over who’s simply scared to be alone. Ultimately, I chalked it up to complexities in their relationship that we can’t see from A’s viewpoint. So I figured that would be one good thing about the same story from Rhiannon’s perspective: we would learn more context on her relationship with Justin. If anything it only strengthened my already established opinions: Justin’s a plain and simple jerk no matter how Rhiannon justifies his behavior and it does speak to some kind of insecurity on her part that she clings to him so desperately. I don’t mean to dismiss Rhiannon’s strengths, but I do think she’s a type. Unfortunately, ANOTHER DAY never clears up for me what A finds so distinctly compelling about her that he doesn’t see reflected in any of the thousands of other people he meets every year. I certainly have read characters in other books that strike me as utterly unique, but Rhiannon isn’t one of them.

Something that does feel different about ANOTHER DAY is that we get to see Rhiannon with her friends. She references some of these people in EVERY DAY when she’s talking to A, but when we live through her perspective we actually meet and get to know each one. In general, the book becomes a little more unique whenever A isn’t around, because readers of EVERY DAY already know the conversations Rhiannon has with A. What we don’t know yet is the conversations she has with others when A isn’t around.

If you’ve read EVERY DAY, then you already know the ending to ANOTHER DAY, except since both these books fixate so much on internal monologue the twist to this one is what Rhiannon’s thinking. It actually turns out to be a cliffhanger, too, and now I’m thinking an actual sequel better come along one day!

To some this may feel like reading the exact same story as EVERY DAY, but to those very invested in character development ANOTHER DAY does provide a new and intriguing layer to what we already know. Nonetheless, I have my fingers crossed that someday we’ll find out what happens next for A and Rhiannon.

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