Imagine waking up in a different body each morning. That’s what A, the teen entity in Every Day, David Levithan’s hit young adult novel—now a movie from Orion Pictures—faces. A doesn’t know why it happens, or how. The only thing A can count on is that each body will belong to another teenager. And that each new person A occupies won’t live too far away from the last one.
“I’ve seen the same color blue look 50 different ways with 50 different pairs of eyes,” says A, early in the book. “Every day of my life, I wake up and just try to live that day, for that person. Make no mark, leave no trace.”
But everything changes when A meets Rhiannon while inhabiting Justin, her not-so-nice boyfriend. The two connect as A’s kind and thoughtful personality shines through Justin. After Rhiannon learns A’s secret, they continue to meet and grow closer as A moves on to male and female hosts from varied backgrounds.
According to Levithan, the idea for Every Day came to him while he was walking to work. Although he didn’t plot out the book before he began writing it, he did know he wanted to try and answer two questions.
“The first was, ‘Who would you be if you weren’t defined by your body?’” said the author during a recent press tour in San Francisco. “And then on the flip side of that, ‘can you love somebody if they change every day?’”
These themes resonated with young readers. While touring the country to promote Every Day and talking to teenagers about it, Levithan quickly realized that the book’s paranormal premise made it easier for them to open up about sensitive topics than if he’d made the novel more realistic.
“I wish I could give myself credit for doing this deliberately, but I did not,” he said. “For some reason, people were more willing to let their guard down because of this strange concept. As a result, it was amazing talking to high schoolers, specifically, about what defines gender, what defines race, what defines your identity and how you can choose to be whoever you want to be, in spite of what body you’re in.”
Every Day is Levithan’s most successful solo book to date and resided on the “New York Times” bestseller list for months. (His many other titles include Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, Two Boys Kissing and Invisible.) But while people around him assumed Every Day would be made into a movie, Levithan wasn’t so sure.
“The lead character is played by 17 actors,” he explained. “It’s not a natural movie to make—it’s a challenge.”
Fortunately, producers Paul Trijbits and Christian Grass from the UK’s FilmWave, along with Anthony Bregman and Peter Cron of Likely Story, were up for the challenge. Levithan insisted that different people portray A, rather than trying to have a single actor fill the role. The producers agreed, but with so many actors playing various versions of A—several of whom only make a fleeting appearance on screen—they wanted to make Rhiannon the film’s main character.
“I was totally on board with that,” said Levithan. “On the page, you can follow A because you’re in A’s head. I knew that visually someone who you can’t see couldn’t be the through line in a movie. It’s going to be the person who remains constant, which is Rhiannon.”
Director Michael Sucsy and his crew ran some of the actors they were considering for larger roles by Levithan. This included Angourie Rice whose radiant smile and natural performance infuse Rhiannon with appealing girl-next-door charm.
“I don’t usually picture my characters when I’m writing them but when they showed me her photo, I thought, ‘Oh yes, she definitely could be Rhiannon,’” Levithan remarked. “I love that Angourie was actually the same age as Rhiannon during filming. It’s so rare to get a 16-year-old playing a 16-year-old.”
Levithan also loved seeing all of the different actors play A. Though he’d visualized what it would be like to wake up in a different body every day while writing the book, witnessing them bring that concept to life was powerful.
“Just seeing all of these actors, and how Michael and the editor got everything together so that you actually do believe that it’s one person, is miraculous to me,” he said.
If there’s one message Levithan hopes viewers will take away after seeing Every Day, it’s that each of us gets to choose our identity. Our bodies do not determine who we are, although it’s easy to fall into the trap of deciding that you are the way other people see you, especially during adolescence.
“I love that notion and think the movie conveys it beautifully,” said Levithan. “You are a person inside a body, and that person should dictate your identity, not vice-versa.”