Author: David Levithan
Published: August 28, 2012
Review copy from publisher via NetGalley
Have you ever wished you could step into somebody else’s life? This is what A does, every day. Every morning, a new body, a new family, a new life. He could be a boy or a girl, tall or short, fat or thin, beautiful or ugly, black or white, popular or ignored. But none of these lives truly belong to him. He’s just passing through.
With no body or family of his own, he’s made an art form of not affecting other people’s lives. He tries to live the day he spends in their bodies as they would have lived them. He doesn’t take anything for himself, because he knows the life and relationships aren’t really his--just on loan.
Then he meets Rhiannon and falls in love. For the first time, A is willing to upend his hosts’ lives, just to be with her for a few hours. Then it’s not enough, and A wants to be with Rhiannon for longer. But is it even possible to build a relationship when one lover is a permanent guest?
This has been getting a lot of love, partly because it’s David Levithan, much beloved of the blogosphere. But it’s also because it’s a genuinely good book, a unique premise executed well. As he tells A's story, Levithan takes the chance to reflect on different topics of empathy, gender, and how your outside affects how the world reacts to you, and how you react to the world
A is in a unique position. Because he has been so many different things, carving out his own identity is largely a matter of his moral choices. He has no inborn characteristics that shape his personality. What makes him A is largely his determination to tread lightly on the world and on his hosts' lives. Unfortunately, this also means that all his actions and choices are dependent on what other people think or do--a feeling that many teens, attempting to fit a mold, will empathize with.
His relationship with Rhiannon is an interesting one. After hiding in someone else his whole life, he finally meets someone who seems to see the real A, and he doesn't want to let go of that. (Whether she really does is something you could argue about for awhile.) It comes in conflict with his first rule, but isn't that what everybody wants? For someone to see you? And of course, the first time he breaks his own rule, he puts himself in ongoing danger of discovery, as a host becomes aware that somebody else was controlling him for a day and starts to hunt him down.
Sweet and thought-provoking, this is a book that will linger in your mind. You'll look around at other people and wonder: What does it feel like from the inside?