The Value of a Life

Since my official job title includes both adult and teen services, I try to balance my reading habits between the two reading levels. But most of the time, my reading skews toward the young adult (YA) books. If you ask me why I’m always reading YA books, I’ll probably tell you it’s to provide great readers advisory to the teens that come to the library.

But in reality, I like the plot lines! Sure, some can get a little overboard with the love triangles and the never-ending fad of vampires, but if you look past that, you can find some true gems. The thing about "good" YA books, you see, is that they contain great life lessons. YA books focus on a wide range of issues, including eating disorders, gender, substance abuse, mental health, sexual orientation, and of course, love and heartache. Since they’re geared for teens, the issues are carefully presented, with enough edginess that teens will actually read the books.

Some people shy away from books with more controversial issues, not wanting their teens to be reading or learning about “those” types of issues. But we need to be honest with ourselves. Teens are already learning about these things at school and beyond. They are already experiencing identity and body issues, peer pressure, good and bad relationships, etc., so why not offer books featuring characters that today’s teens can relate to?

I love finding books that tackle these issues and present them in a way that every reader can connect and carry something away from the book. It’s those types of YA books that I enjoy, because even though I’m not a teen, I still learn new things about life and myself from those books. The biggest thing I recently learned from YA books was a hard lesson in taking life for granted.

I’ll admit it. Over the course of my life, I’ve taken many things for granted. The roof over my head, the clothes on my back, the next meal I’ll eat today. Sometimes I take my friends and family for granted, as well as the fact that I can honestly say I love my job. Taking this concept to a new level, what else in our lives do we take for granted? Do we take for granted the consistency of each day, the routines that fill our lives, the ability to plan for tomorrow? What if that was never possible for you—what if “tomorrow” never existed—what if you only had a persistent series of “today’s” that ended at midnight?

In Every Day by David Levithan, this is exactly the kind of life that A faces. Every day, a new body, new gender, new name. Every day, a new culture, new family, and new friends. Every day, a new school, new teachers, new homework assignments. Every day, a new sport, new job, new boyfriend/girlfriend. Every day filled with new responsibilities, new expectations, and new deadlines. Every day a different life--but a life that isn’t yours. A life that’s borrowed for today, but not tomorrow. Because tomorrow you’ll be somebody new.

This is the life of A, the main character in Every DayA tries to act as normal as possible in each day’s body, blending into the lives of the people A inhabits. A tries to maintain status quo for each body until meeting Rhiannon, the girlfriend of the body named Justin. A falls in love with Rhiannon while living as Justin, and starts to realize the impact of living a life without tomorrows. Each day (and each body) after, A tries to find a way back to Rhiannon. But A must overcome many hurdles to be with Rhiannon, beyond the distance that separates them each day. And then there’s the life of the host to consider. . . What’s the value of a life, even if it is just for a day?

After reading Every Day I realized that life—even for a day—is something to never take for granted.