From the blurb:
A has no friends. No parents. No family. No possessions. No home, even. Because every day, A wakes up in the body of a different person. Every morning, a different bed. A different room. A different house. A different life. A is able to access each person's memory, enough to be able to get through the day without parents, friends, and teachers realizing this is not their child, not their friend, not their student. Because it isn't. It's A. Inhabiting each person's body. Seeing the world through their eyes. Thinking with their brain. Speaking with their voice. It's a lonely existence--until, one day, it isn't. A meets a girl named Rhiannon. And, in an instant, A falls for her, after a perfect day together. But when night falls, it's over. Because A can never be the same person twice. But yet, A can't stop thinking about her. She becomes A's reason for existing. So each day, in different bodies--of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, walks of life--A tries to get back to her. And convince her of their love. But can their love transcend such an obstacle?
I don't even know where to start. This book made me cry, it was so good.
Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
The MC is a person of indeterminate gender, looks and even name, who wakes up in a different body every single day. 'A', as s/he calls him/herself has been like this since birth. Every morning, 'A' has to check whether the body currently inhabited is male or female, check the location and then try to make it through the day without drawing notice and without getting the host into trouble. For sixteen years, this has been the life s/he knows.
'A' is resigned to this non-life and never questions whether there is a different way, or why the constant body changes happen. It just is.
Then 'A' wakes up in the body of Justin, a typically grumpy and uncaring sixteen year old jock. Just another day, it seems, until 'A' sees Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon. Justin hasn't been very nice to Rhiannon lately, but to 'A', she is amazing and s/he soon falls in love with her. They spend a wonderful day out by the beach, and 'A' shows Rhiannon (as Justin) how she should be treated.
Of course, the next day, 'A' is in a different body again, but is unable to forget Rhiannon.
From that moment on, 'A' has only one goal each day - to reconnect with Rhiannon, in whatever body may be inhabited that day. And this leads to the book's underlying question:
Could you love someone whose gender, name, looks and entire identity changes every single day?
The book gripped me from the first few pages. The premise itself is utterly unique yet thought-provoking. Things we take for granted, like family and friends, people that know us - 'A' has none of that. There are glimpses of it with every body s/he inhabits, but the next day, those families and friends are gone again, replaced with a new set.
"I will never have a family to grieve for me. I will never have people feel about me the way they feel about Marc's grandfather, I will not leave the trail of memories that he's left. No one will ever have known me or what I've done. If I die, there will be no body to mark me, no funeral to attend, no burial. If I die, there will be nobody but Rhiannon who will ever know I've been here."
From the start, I felt sorry for 'A' - what a lonely existence it must be to never really connect with anyone, to live life without love, without friendship, without family.
Upon meeting Rhiannon, 'A' becomes a little obsessive. Not only is s/he in love for the first time, but considering the circumstances, the ever-changing bodies and locations make it extremely difficult to stay in touch with her. For the very first time, 'A' tells someone about the body switching. For the first time, 'A' trusts someone with that story.
And as s/he falls more and more in love with Rhiannon, 'A' becomes almost a creepy stalker. Upon waking up, s/he first checks gender, name and then location, just to find out how far from Rhiannon s/he has woken up. With a burning need to see her every day, 'A' gets his hosts into all kinds of trouble - from waking up by the side of the road (without any idea how they got there) to skipping school to purposely missing a flight to Hawaii to upsetting strict parents - 'A' seems willing to risk it all just to have Rhiannon.
Rhiannon is a very normal teenage girl, likeable, sweet, caring. Her boyfriend Justin doesn't treat her very well, but Rhiannon keeps hoping that he'll go back to the nice boyfriend he was in the beginning. Until that day 'A' inhabits Justin's body and shows her what real love and appreciation is like. Once she finds out about 'A's predicament, she slowly allows herself to open up to him and fall for him as well, yet struggling with the ever-changing bodies and genders. She's the one who asked for his name. She's the one who for the first time knows the truth.
The author does a fantastic job exploring the emotional fragility of the main characters' relationship, the struggle Rhiannon faces, the despair and pain 'A' lives with and the fallout from the disregard s/he displays towards the hosts.
And I was immensely impressed with the character growth. At the end, 'A' does a very unselfish thing for Rhiannon that completely redeemed him in my eyes, at which point I found myself with tears on my face. I do hope there's some kind of follow-up to this book. Because, dang it, I want answers. I NEED answers. I need to know what happens next.
David Levithan's writing is crisp, precise and yet much in the tone of a teenager, albeit one who has accumulated a bit too much wisdom too early, due to the circumstances. I was immediately drawn into the story and unable to put this down. This was my first book by this author, but if this is an indication of his writing, I must now check out his other books.
This story will stay with me for a long time. Absolutely terrific.
I received a free ARC from the publisher, Knopf Books for Young Readers, via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return.
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