You don't have to read very many pages of David Levithan's novel Every Day before you might think, "This story is unfilmable." It's a young-adult romance in which the main character, known only as A, wakes up in a different body every single day. A has never had a body of their own, and every 24 hours they find themselves intruding on the life of someone else.
For example, one day A wakes up in the body of Nathan, a boy from a deeply religious family. Another day, A wakes up as Amy, a girl that just moved to town. Another day, A is George, a kid homeschooled by a strict mother.
A typically makes an effort not to affect or screw up the lives of the bodies they inhabit each day, until they meet Rhiannon, A's non-body-swapping love interest. So begins an extremely unconventional love story in which Rhiannon begins to fall for a person who has no body.
The book spends a great deal of time inside A's mind in such a way that would be difficult (at best) to portray on a screen, and the author had a clear idea of how it shouldn't be done.
"The first [realization] was 'A will have to be played by a different actor every day,'" Levithan says while in town for a Dallas screening of the film. "[The studio] had to promise that before I sold the rights because I did not want it to be — with all my total, mad love to Quantum Leap — I did not want it to be Quantum Leap, where it was just one white guy looking in the mirror going, 'Oh, I'm a black woman today!' That wouldn't really play well these days."
The IMDB page for Every Day, then, is a funny list of actors that portray "Amy / A," "Nathan / A," etc. More than a dozen actors play A at some point in the movie, and many of those actors also play the non-A versions of those bodies.
Given this nature of A, Levithan concluded that a film adaptation of Every Day would need to shake things up and make Rhiannon, A's non-body-swapping love interest, the central figure. The studio agreed.
While this version of the story doesn't get as deep into A's head, A's most important experiences all landed in the film. "If you had asked me before the adaptation to list the 10 most important days or bodies to be in the movie, all 10 made it into the movie," Levithan says. "They figured out which ones were important independently of me."
An early draft of the script, though, almost cut out an important character: Kelsea, a suicidal girl whom A wakes up as one day. "I was very glad that corrected itself," Levithan says, "because of all of the days in the book, that is the one that has gotten the most response from readers. It would have been very strange to not have it in the movie."
Since one of the story's main characters has no body of their own, questions about identity and gender run throughout the entire thing. This manifests in a very real way when A wakes up in the body of a transgender male, Vic, and A themselves, when asked whether they are a boy or a girl, answers simply, "Yes." This theme hasn't escaped young readers.
"It was very deliberately about your body not matching your mind, your identity," Levithan says. "A is more agender than trans, but certainly it is a theme that occurs with trans people. That was very conscious."
It's a tough concept to talk about for a lot of people, but the supernatural aspect of the story helps. "Amazingly, because there is a paranormal conceit, you can engage in all the themes with people being much less defensive about it. What was amazing is that I would go to these schools and I would email with people who read the book, and absolutely the themes of, 'Wait, what is gender? Gender fluidity, is this a thing?' came up almost instantly when talking about the book — I think because students didn't know whether to call A 'he' or 'she.' So just in talking about the book, they had to realize how ridiculous gender binaries are."
A follow-up novel to Every Day, titled Someday, will be released in October. Levithan hopes that if the movie does well, it will naturally lead to a cinematic sequel. The characters and plot points important to Someday are prominent in the movie. "It's kind of amazing to me because it matches up with the movie so well."
Every Day is in theaters now. David Levithan will be back in Dallas-Fort Worth April 20-21 for the North Texas Teen Book Festival.