Michael Suscy’s ‘Every Day’ Adaptation Cuts What Made the Novel Hum

The film version of David Levithan's book is a pared-down, emotionally stunted misfire.
January 11, 2019
5 mins read

I became obsessed with David Levithan’s “Every Day” the first time I read it back in high school, to the point that I reread the YA novel once a year. Naturally, I was thrilled to hear that a movie adaptation of my favorite novel was set to release in 2018; however, as with any adaptation of a book, I had my reservations on just how well the movie was going to hold up.

The plot of the novel and film adaptation focuses on the protagonist, A, a gender-fluid high school student, who wakes up in a new body everyday, regardless of race, gender or sexual identity. Levithan goes beyond simply experimenting with gender and sexual identity; rather, he looks at what defines the human soul and the notion of being.

What separates the novel and film adaptation are its different focal points. The main focus of the novel was on A discovering their identity as it meshes with the bodies they inhabit daily. Thus, the novel heavily relied on detailed descriptions of A learning about the new body and person they take over, which often comes with heavy moments for the protagonist — such as suicide, LGBTQ+ issues and substance abuse. The film, on the other hand, shifts to focus on an on-screen teen romance that sadly ends up dominating the entire narrative.

According to Levithan, “Every Day” is a story that “redefine(s) who can be in love.” His intent for the narrative is to prove that love is more than just the physical, but rather is about understanding and seeing one another for who you are, not just your gender and appearance. The idea of seeing someone for who they really are becomes a major selling point of the characters and relationships within the novel. The film adaptation falls short of capturing these ideas, creating problematic moments for viewers who are expecting to see an open-minded look into relationships and love.

According to Kate Erbland of IndieWire, the open gender and sexuality plot falls short during the focus on the high school relationship between A and Rhiannon. The film follows the book’s progressive ideas, yet falls short in execution. They have no problem showing cisgendered males and Rhiannon engaging in intimate moments and on-screen kissing, yet once it is a trans body or female the pair simply talk that day, or permission must be granted before the kiss happens (something that would be no problem with the male hosts).

The film also falls short on following through with many of the novel’s original plot points and storylines. Michael Suscy’s version of “Every Day” completely breezes over the Nathan story line from the novel, which is a central focus to the overall plot.

In Levithan’s novel, Nathan is inhabited by A, but something goes wrong and he can remember parts of his body being taken over. The novel continues this plotline throughout the rest of the book by depicting several email exchanges between Nathan and A, as well as adding the element of Nathan becoming obsessed with the idea that Satan violated his body, which leads him to seek others who have experienced similar situations. However, in the film, the Nathan storyline does not go past a single viral video and conversation between him and Rhiannon — it’s nixed before it can even get good.

One other element that Suscy changes from Levithan’s original text is the use of text messaging and social media, which modernizes the film. In the novel version of “Every Day,” A, Rhiannon and Nathan communicate through e-mails not iMessage or Instagram direct messaging. Using on-screen communication like this, by showing the messages in bubbles next to the actors, is a popular trend that simply allows audiences to feel like they are part of the conversation.

“Every Day” certainly feels like a YA film, as it explores wholesome themes, identity and is tailored to an adolescent audience to tell a story about acceptance and love. YA novels and films often explore identity as a theme because adolescence is a time of self-exploration and identity crisis. While the film fails in this respect, the “Every Day” novel takes the exploration to an entirely different level and looks at identity through a fresh lens.

One of my favorite aspects of the novel upon my first read was being able to put yourself in each character’s shoes and explore their identities, along with their individual outlooks on the world around them. The exploration of identity, coupled with A’s own self and desire for a stable identity, makes the narrative attractive for the coming-of-age audience, but also to older readers revisiting their adolescence.

While the movie did capture that same age group as the novel, it came out six years after the novel, leaving the original target generation to grow up and a new target generation to take its place. Thus, the changes to the movie make sense, but lack the luster and nostalgia for older viewers like myself.

Regardless of the changes from book to movie, “Every Day” is still worth watching for anyone who loved reading the book, or simply is looking for a wholesome YA movie that explores gender fluidity, acceptance and different notions of love.

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