written by David Levithan
A few thoughts.
While from the start, Levithan makes it pretty clear that A has reached a point of contentment with not knowing who or what he is, that still feels like a big mystery to me. To uphold the realism of the story, it was necessary to leave it a mystery. But unlike A, I'm a lot less comfortable with unknowns, and that's entirely a personal preference with no reflection on Levithan's writing, but I do wish we had gotten...something more. Not necessarily a full-fledged supernatural explanation, but something.
Rhiannon is an interesting character to me. I was glad that A got to experience life in her body, and it is her existence that binds the story together, but at the same time, what's so special about one teenaged girl? Levithan makes it a point to say that we're all human, with much more similar than different, so what makes Rhiannon the first one A falls in love with? Honestly, really looking at the story, she doesn't seem so remarkable, beyond A's interpretation of her, which I would argue strays into manic-pixie-dream-girl territory, where a female character isn't fully imagined as a complex human being.
As always, Levithan does what the few and the talented in the YA realm do--really bring the character's thoughts to life. Teenagers are usually plagued by the big questions, spending plenty of time thinking and angsting and learning from all of it, and it's great to witness A's inner dialogue. We also get to see brief glimpses into A's unstable childhood. That bit of the story left me completely unsettled. No soul escapes that kind of instability unscathed. A is far too well put-together for someone who has literally lost loved ones (and yes, as a child, attachments are formed and they are formed fast) every single day. For storytelling purposes, this makes sense. For reality...not so much.
I'm also a bit unsettled by the fact that all of the teens A occupied were located so close to one another. Again, for storytelling purposes, makes sense. But not every 16 year old lives within a few hours of one another. It would have been incredible to witness glimpses into the daily lives of teens all over the world through A's eyes. That could have reached out to so many more readers. I almost wish Rhiannon wasn't a character at all, leaving us with A's story, maybe just with Nathan as a complication to deal with. What does Rhiannon's character ultimately accomplish? Yeah, we get the tragic first love story and it drives the plot, but to me, it doesn't seem to have the resonance as A's own journey of self-discovery. She could have still been a love interest, but with a significantly smaller role. I'm not sure. She's the story's glue, but I wish there had been a different brand of glue.
Ultimately, a strong story, one I will highly recommend to readers, but I think it could have been stronger. It'll stand out in the realm of YA fiction, it'll be one of the better books, but in Levithan's hands, I truly believe it could have been better.
Also by David Levithan:
The Realm of Possibility
Are We There Yet?
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
reading next: Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon