Monday, July 12, 2010

Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

Love is the Higher Law

David Levithan

SUMMARY: It’s an autumn morning in New York City and three teenagers are going about their ordinary routines. Claire is in school, only a few days into her senior year. Jasper is fast asleep in his parents’ house, enjoying the end of his summer vacation before returning to college. Peter is skipping homeroom to stand outside Tower Records, waiting for the store to open so he can buy to new Bob Dylan album. Then this average day explodes with the horror of an unexpected attack, shaking the foundations of their ordinary lives forever. But in the aftermath, these three people find themselves connecting and reconnecting with each other on a new level of unexpected intimacy and so find their lives altered in positive as well as negative ways. 9/11 has become associated with tragedy and terror but this novel attempts to chart the power of such a horrific event to illustrate amazing human capability for connection, support, and love as demonstrated in the hours, days, weeks, months, and years that followed.

ONESMARTCUPCAKE THINKS: I’ll put it out there right now. I’m HUGE David Levithan fan. I mean HUGE like when I finally get to an ALA conference and if he’s there, I will create a David Levithan fangirl shirt and likely cry if I see him at all, even from a distance. I feel about my favorite authors the way other people feel about rock stars. So it was pretty inevitable that I would like this book and that I would gush about it to some degree. You have been warned.

Like all of Levithan’s books, Love is the Higher Law is a gorgeously written exploration of the diversity and complexity of human relationships. The book’s narration is split between the three main characters and each emerges as distinct voices. However, the brevity of the novel limits the time the reader spends with each character, preventing one from becoming as involved with each as one might wish. The narrative also jumps through time, charting specific times from the events of 9/11 through the year leading to its first anniversary. So while it is a story focused on three specific characters and it maintains a visible plot, the novel resembles a series of connected vignettes or snapshots more than a continuous narrative. In this way it reminds me of Levithan’s earlier book, Realm of Possibility.

Reading Love is the Higher Law was a gentle yet powerful experience. Levithan attempts to illustrate varied responses to a horrifying and disturbing event such as 9/11 with subtlety and honesty. While I did not fall happily and passionately in love with it as I have with Levithan’s other novels, I was distinctly moved by the emotional authenticity and elegant writing style of Love is the Higher Law. This seems to be one of the first novels, both YA and adult, that attempts to explore the effects of 9/11 on the lives of individuals. While I am surprised at this fact, I am not surprised that Levithan’s skill and honesty have resulted in such a thoughtful and resonant piece

3 1/2 / 5 STARS

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