Verdict: In listening to this novel, I pictured A in my head as a boy. After all, I'm straight, and A had a crush on a girl, Rhiannon. So naturally, when it dawned on me that A had no gender identity, it threw me for a minute. Also throwing me, was how to describe A with a pronoun. "Him" doesn't seem to fit, nor does "Her." "It," seems too inhuman a pronoun to assign when this character has done nothing but experience humanity through every single facet available while bouncing through life, one body to the next. But, in describing this story to Monster, that's exactly what I ended up using.
While this book had no shortage of effect on me, making me angry, making me relate, making me cry (yes, me. cry.), I couldn't help but notice the slow plot. I kept having to remind myself that plot was not used in the traditional way. This is more of an experience with social commentary than it was a traditional coming-of-age, high-drama, high-conflict plot. Coming-of-age? Sort of. A is wise beyond (its) years. High-drama? Certainly. High-conflict? Meh. Lots of internal conflict and time spent in A's consciousness. But honestly, Levithan couldn't have told it any other way.
Ultimately, when you combine the excellent writing, the wakening themes and the unique characters, you get one heck of a book. Absolutely worth the time to listen or read. You get something that make you think, which to me has value, especially under the Young Adult umbrella which is too often too fluffy. But this book isn't for all teens. I wish I could say it was. This book isn't for all adults. I really really wish it was. I wish that we all had open enough minds that we could all experience this story together and have a conversation about it and reflect on how we could learn from it and improve ourselves. But in reality, humanity has a LONG way to go to catch up with A. If you're not ready to open your mind and appreciate courage in many forms without judgement, then you're not ready for this book.
Narration: Alex McKenna was the perfect narrator for this story. My inability to assign a gender without looking at the box says it all, right? Only note I'd have is that it moved rather slowly on audio, which always moves slower than print I realize, but this felt especially slow. Not an audiobook for the gym or chores, but definitely one for the road.
Note: David Levithan will be appearing at Changing Hands in Tempe, AZ (near me!) on October 19th, that's a Friday, at 7pm. So, if you're in AZ, see you there?