While David Levithan’s novel “Every Day” considers extraordinary questions of identity and expression, as framed by the extraordinary premise of assuming a different physical form each day, the author recalls first conceiving of the idea for the book in a most ordinary fashion.
“I was just basically walking to work one day and thought, ‘Huh, what would it be like to wake up in a different body every morning?’ ” Levithan said in an interview with The Daily Californian.
In 2010, Levithan took to the page, converting notion to novel. Two years later, literary critics praised the newly published “Every Day” for its compelling characters and overall provocation of broader questions concerning love, identity and what it means to be human.
Now, six years after the initial publication of “Every Day,” main characters A and Rhiannon are trying out the big screen. Directed by Michael Sucsy and adapted by Jesse Andrews, “Every Day” the film follows the same basic narrative of the book: A wakes up in a different body every day and must figure out how to navigate these constraints while also being in love with fellow 16-year-old Rhiannon.
Yet, as with any movie adaptation, the screen tells an inevitably different tale, if only minutely, from the book. This transition proves especially poignant considering how much of the story revolves around the interior qualities that define an individual, as opposed to their exterior form. Thus, the movie faces the difficulty of maintaining this emphasis, while also reifying characters whose appearances Levithan’s novel describes only minimally.
Levithan proved cognizant of this tension from the moment he sold the script. “If in the book it’s easy and reliant upon the words and the reader to conjure up this notion of being in a different body every day, what’s astonishing about the movie is that is has a different kind of power, and I think conveys something very different,” the author noted.
Nonetheless, Levithan does not cite this discontinuity as a surprise, describing it more as an agreement. “One of the acknowledgements any author has to make when there’s an adaptation is that … people see the movie, then if they read the book they will picture the people in the book, and suddenly these characters who don’t have bodies will, a little bit, have bodies,” he said.
To ensure that the movie brought to life the same A of the original novel, Levithan made certain Sucsy and Andrews understood the importance of multiplicity in the casting of the characters whom A inhabits. “Literally the first conversation I had with the producers before I sold them the book was to say that they would have to hire different actors to play A on every single day,” Levithan remarked.
Though the movie features less than half of the approximately 30 individuals inhabited by A in the book, Levithan expressed approval for the selection of characters that did make it into the script. “If you asked me, ‘List the top 10 people that you want to be in the movie,’ as far as characters are concerned, they actually all would have made it into the final movie, so they did a great job of that,” he said.
Thus, the film communicates the character of A by way of more than a dozen actors ranging in ethnicity, gender and body type, just as Levithan intended. “I think the central thesis of both the book and the movie is that you should be able to define yourself by the inside rather than be defined by the outside,” stated Levithan, affirming the effectiveness of the adaptation. “And that, especially when it comes to love, to actually see somebody for who they are on the inside instead of by what their body type is.”
While widespread viewer responses have not yet been recorded, as the film’s wide release begins Feb. 23, Levithan described some of his favorite audience reactions to the novel. Levithan wrote the book aware of its ramifications for those for whom this tension between outside and inside manifests especially potently: transgender, genderqueer and gender-fluid individuals.
“That (reception in the trans community) was absolutely one of the touchpoints I had in mind while writing it,” Levithan noted. “I’ve definitely talked to trans teens and to agender teens and gender-fluid teens who have really said that the character of A was really somebody they could identify with, at least thematically, because the notion of actually choosing who you are, despite whatever body you’re in, spoke very much to them.”
At the same time, Levithan does not view the paranormal nature of the book as a hindrance to its effectiveness, but instead, a facilitator. He remarked that while he could have chosen to become a motivational speaker, he instead represents positive inspiration through his art. “It’s so much more compelling, at least for me, to actually hear those themes in the context of a story and hear the themes in the context of characters and of thoughts and feelings,” he said. “I think that conveys it so much deeper than just a pure speech would do.”