School Library Journal Best of Children''s Books 2012
Kirkus Reviews Best of Teen''s Books 2012
Booklist Best of Children''s Books 2012
＂Fresh, unique, funny, and achingly honest, Levithan brilliantly
explores the adolescent conundrum of not feeling like oneself, and
not knowing where one belongs. I didn''t just read this book — I
inhaled it.＂ —Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author of Lone
Wolf and Between the Lines
Entertainment Weekly, August 22, 2012:
＂Rich in wisdom and wit...Levithan ke
DAVID LEVITHAN is a children''s book editor in New York City,
and the author of several books for young adults, including Nick
Norah''s Infinite Playlist and Dash Lily''s Book
of Dares co-authored with Rachel Cohn; Will Grayson, Will
Grayson co-authored with John Green; and Every You, Every
Me with photographs from Jonathan Farmer. He lives in
Hoboken, New Jersey.
I wake up.
Immediately I have to figure out who I am. It’s not just the
body--opening my eyes and discovering whether the skin on my arm is
light or dark, whether my hair is long or short, whether I’m fat or
thin, boy or girl, scarred or smooth. The body is the easiest thing
to adjust to, if you’re used to waking up in a new one each
morning. It’s the life, the context of the body, that can be hard
Every day I am someone else. I am myself--I know I am myself--but
I am also someone else.
It has always been like this.
The information is there. I wake up, open my eyes, understand
that it is a new morning, a new place. The biography kicks in, a
welcome gift from the not me part of the mind. Today I am Justin.
Somehow I know this--my name is Justin--and at the same time I know
that I’m not really Justin, I’m only borrowing his life for a day.
I look around and know that this is his room. This is his home. The
alarm will go off in seven minutes.
I’m never the same person twice, but I’ve certainly been this
type before. Clothes everywhere. Far more video games than books.
Sleeps in his boxers. From the taste of his mouth, a smoker. But
not so addicted that he needs one as soon as he wakes up.
“Good morning, Justin,” I say. Checking out his voice. Low. The
voice in my head is always different.
Justin doesn’t take care of himself. His scalp itches. His eyes
don’t want to open. He hasn’t gotten much sleep.
Already I know I’m not going to like today.
It’s hard being in the body of someone you don’t like, because
you still have to respect it. I’ve harmed people’s lives in the
past, and I’ve found that every time I slip up, it haunts me. So I
try to be careful.
From what I can tell, every person I inhabit is the same age as
me. I don’t hop from being sixteen to being sixty. Right now, it’s
only sixteen. I don’t know how this works. Or why. I stopped trying
to figure it out a long time ago. I’m never going to figure it out,
any more than a normal person will figure out his or her own
existence. After a while, you have to be at peace with the fact
that you simply are. There is no way to know why. You can have
theories, but there will never be proof.
I can access facts, not feelings. I know this is Justin’s room,
but I have no idea if he likes it or not. Does he want to kill his
parents in the next room? Or would he be lost without his mother
coming in to make sure he’s awake? It’s impossible to tell. It’s as
if that part of me replaces the same part of whatever person I’m
in. And while I’m glad to be thinking like myself, a hint every now
and then of how the other person thinks would be helpful. We all
contain mysteries, especially when seen from the inside.
The alarm goes off. I reach for a shirt and some jeans, but
something lets me see that it’s the same shirt he wore yesterday. I
pick a different shirt. I take the clothes with me to the bathroom,
dress after showering. His parents are in the kitchen now. They
have no idea that anything is different.
Sixteen years is a lot of time to practice. I don’t usually make
mistakes. Not anymore.
I read his parents easily: Justin doesn’t talk to them much in
the morning, so I don’t have to talk to them. I have grown
accustomed to sensing expectation in others, or the lack of it. I
shovel down some cereal, leave the bowl in the sink without washing
it, grab Justin’s keys and go.
Yesterday I was a girl in a town I’d guess to be two hours away.
The day before, I was a boy in a town three hours farther than
that. I am already forgetting their details. I have to, or else I
will never remember who I really am.
Justin listens to loud and obnoxious music on a loud and
obnoxious station where loud and obnoxious DJs make loud and
obnoxious jokes as a way of getting through the morning. This is
all I need to know about Justin, really. I access his memory to
show me the way to school, which parking space to take, which
locker to go to. The combination. The names of the people he knows
in the halls.
Sometimes I can’t go through these motions. I can’t bring myself
to go to school, maneuver through the day. I’ll say I’m sick, stay
in bed and read a few books. But even that gets tiresome after a
while, and I find myself up for the challenge of a new school, new
friends. For a day.
As I take Justin’s books out of his locker, I can feel someone
hovering on the periphery. I turn, and the girl standing there is
transparent in her emotions--tentative and expectant, nervous and
adoring. I don’t have to access Justin to know that this is his
girlfriend. No one else would have this reaction to him, so
unsteady in his presence. She’s pretty, but she doesn’t see it.
She’s hiding behind her hair, happy to see me and unhappy to see me
at the same time.
Her name is Rhiannon. And for a moment--just the slightest
beat--I think that, yes, this is the right name for her. I don’t
know why. I don’t know her. But it feels right.
This is not Justin’s thought. It’s mine. I try to ignore it. I’m
not the person she wants to talk to.
“Hey,” I say, keeping it casual.
“Hey,” she murmurs back.
She’s looking at the floor, at her inked in Converse. She’s drawn
cities there, skylines around the soles. Something’s happened
between her and Justin, and I don’t know what it is. It’s probably
not something that Justin even recognized at the time.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
I see the surprise on her face, even as she tries to cover it.
This is not something that Justin normally asks.
And the strange thing is: I want to know the answer. The fact
that he wouldn’t care makes me want it more.
“Sure,” she says, not sounding sure at all.
I find it hard to look at her. I know from experience that
beneath every peripheral girl is a central truth. She’s hiding hers
away, but at the same time she wants me to see it. That is, she
wants Justin to see it. And it’s there, just out of my reach. A
sound waiting to be a word.
She is so lost in her sadness that she has no idea how visible it
is. I think I understand her--for a moment, I presume to understand
her--but then, from within this sadness, she surprises me with a
brief flash of determination. Bravery, even.
Shifting her gaze away from the floor, her eyes matching mine,
she asks, “Are you mad at me?”
I can’t think of any reason to be mad at her. If anything, I am
mad at Justin, for making her feel so diminished. It’s there in her
body language. When she is around him, she makes herself
“No,” I say. “I’m not mad at you at all.”
I tell her what she wants to hear, but she doesn’t trust it. I
feed her the right words, but she suspects they’re threaded with
This is not my problem; I know that. I am here for one day. I
cannot solve anyone’s boyfriend problems. I should not change
I turn away from her, get my books out, close the locker. She
stays in the same spot, anchored by the profound, desperate
loneliness of a bad relationship.
“Do you still want to get lunch today?” she asks.
The easy thing would be to say no. I often do this: sense the
other person’s life drawing me in, and run in the other
But there’s something about her--the cities on her shoes, the
flash of bravery, the unnecessary sadness--that makes me want to
know what the word will be when it stops being a sound. I have
spent years meeting people without ever knowing them, and on this
morning, in this place, with this girl, I feel the faintest pull of
wanting to know. And in a moment of either weakness or bravery on
my own part, I decide to follow it. I decide to find out
“Absolutely,” I say. “Lunch would be great.”
Again, I read her: What I’ve said is too enthusiastic. Justin is
“No big deal,” I add.
She’s relieved. Or, at least, as relieved as she’ll allow herself
to be, which is a very guarded form of relief. By accessing, I know
she and Justin have been together for over a year. That’s as
specific as it gets. Justin doesn’t remember the exact date.
She reaches out and takes my hand. I am surprised by how good
“I’m glad you’re not mad at me,” she says. “I just want
everything to be okay.”
I nod. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: We all want
everything to be okay. We don’t even wish so much for fantastic or
marvelous or outstanding. We will happily settle for okay, because
most of the time, okay is enough.
The first bell rings.
“I’ll see you later,” I say.
Such a basic promise. But to Rhiannon, it means the world.