Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

Sometimes I like to tell you the  story of how I came to read a book, because the story is so coincidental, and the book is so amazing, it’s as if divine intervention put the book in your hands.  You didn’t choose it, it chose you and there’s really not a whole lot you could have done about it.  Now, I requested Love is the Higher Law from the library, so I had some hand in it, but I never expected to read it the day I picked it up from the library, I never expected to read it one sitting, I never expected to love it.  I requested a random book from David Levithan simply because I know Will Grayson, Will Grayson, a join effort by Levithan and John Green, is out and I wanted to be at least a little familiar with Levithan.  I picked Love is the Higher Law, because I had seen a good review over at Bending Bookshelf and I had little interest in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.  Plus, Love is the Higher Law is an awesome title.  I only started reading it as soon as I got it because the library lost one of my holds and went searching for it.  So, what does a person like me do when they have to wait somewhere for a long time?  We read.

And I read.  And then I got in my car and all I wanted to do was keep reading.  Then I got home and I read and I read.  I cried a little.  And then I read some more until the book was over and all I wanted to do was keep talking about it.  Maybe I’m a sucker for books about September 11, but I can’t help it. 10 years later, I still want to tell you where I was and what I was doing.  And I still want to talk about how none of my sisters remember it at all because they are so young, and that, among everything else, will probably define where our generation ends and begins.  Because I remember what it was like before.

The point is that, not only do I want to tell you, but I want to hear it.  I want to hear where you were, and what you were doing and how this huge thing changed your life.  That’s what David Levithan does with Love is the Higher Law. Essentially, this book is about grief.  It’s about grief that’s bigger than one person, than one family, than one city.  It’s about a grief that holds over an entire country, but that each individual person feels acutely in some way, shape or form.  Yes, this book has plot and there are characters, but who the characters are doesn’t really matter, because it could be you or me or your next door neighbor.  The thing about grief is that it is the most universal and yet most individual feeling in the world.  Explaining what grief feels like seems impossible, it’s too much bigger than words.  Somehow, though, David Levithan manages to make this a story that’s even bigger that September 11 by the end.  This book is about 3 New York teenagers who are trying to sort through their feelings about what happened, while at the same time dealing with going away to college for the first time and trying to find love.

Claire, Jasper and Peter become friends through coincidences.  Claire and Peter are acquaintances at school, who are both at a friend’s party.  Jasper is there too, a friend of another friend.  Jasper and Peter have a flirtation that does not end well.  Jasper and Claire randomly meet each other again and have beautiful conversations.  They form an odd friendship, the three of them, but it is the best kind of friendship.  How it began is too coincidental, too strange to even seem real.

The narration switches from three main characters and I think out of all of them, Jasper was the strongest.  I would have liked more Claire and Peter, but Jasper really carried this book.  More than anything, I think the alternating voices give different perspective to the event itself.  Claire was at school, but ended up leaving to find her little brother.  They walked with the rest of the elementary school to a safer part of the city and her description of what that was like was absolutely terrifying.  Jasper was house sitting for his parents, who are visiting family in Korea, and slept through the whole thing.  Can you imagine going to sleep and waking up to find the entire world has changed?

If I could, I would quote this whole book to you.  But I will settle with this conversation:

She went on, “There’s the drown of things and the swim of things, I guess.  I’ve been going back and forth, back and forth.  I feel the weight of it. [...]  Have you talked to people about this?”  Claire asked me.  “I mean, about what happened?  I’ve tried, but it never works.  I don’t know what I want from it, but I’m never satisfied.  I can’t talk to my mom about it.  And even my friends are strange to talk to, because they’re all caught up in their own versions, and every time I bring it up, they make it about them.”

I almost forgot she’d asked me a question.  Then she paused, and I said, “Oh.  Me?  I haven’t really talked to anyone….  I mean, what’s the point?”

This wasn’t really a question meant to be answered, but Claire looked out to the water and gave it a shot.

“I think the point is to realize you’re not alone.” (103)

I think everyone should read this book, because we’re not done talking about September 11th.  We’re going to have to explain to kids what it was and what it meant and how things were different before.  How will we do that?  How will I explain to my children where I was and what I was doing and how confusing and terrifying it was for a 12-year-old? There are no answers to those questions, I know that.  The readers who are the target audience for this book are kids like my sisters, they were there, but they probably don’t remember it too well.  This book will explain something, will explain the loss we all felt.  But they aren’t the only ones who should be reading it, so please, get out there, grab this book and read it.  It’s beautiful and heart breaking and one of the best novels I’ve read this year.

So go read this!:  NOW| tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Also reviewed by: Mrs. Magoo Reads, Book Addiction, Reading Rants!, The Book Obsession, Read this Book!, She is too fond of books, Bending Bookshelf, The Reading Zone, Read What You Know.

19 thoughts on “Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

  1. I’m glad to hear this is so good. I got the ARC of this back last summer and it’s been sitting on my shelf since then (along with the other 300 books I’m waiting to read…).

  2. First, this is such a beautiful post. It clearly shows your emotions in the raw and I LOVE that in posts.

    Secondly, Zomg! Isn’t David Levithan ***awesome*** (?) (!) (?) (!)

    I haven’t read this book (although it is on my list because I’m slowly going through all of DL’s books) but man alive he is just incredible. Boy Meets Boy…love it! I want to live in the world he created in that one.

    This book sounds a bit more heavy on the heart, which I’m all game for.

    Um yah. So, I just had to share that shout. I mean, I have such a fan girl crush on both John Green & DL so my heart went pitter patter when I found out that they wrote a book together.

    • Christina,

      This was my very first Levithan book and I have to admit, he is AMAZING. I was so-so interested in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and now I want to own it… IMMEDIATELY. This book is quite heavy on the heart, for more reasons than just September 11th. I might be a new fangirl!

  3. Your review was so well-written. I had never heard of this book before, but you managed to really make me feel how enthousiastic you are about this book.

  4. I just read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and loved it, and knew that I really needed to read some of David Levithan’s other books (or ALL of his other books :) ). I’d planned to start with Wide Awake, because I’ve been wanting to read that for a long time…but I think you just changed my mind. Now I want to read this one–now!

    • Debi,

      I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson! It’s been in cataloging for FOREVER at the library and I’m 4th in line. I haven’t read anything else by Levithan, so I can’t say if it’s better than Wide Awake, but I highly recommend this one!

  5. WELL. I’d say that if I don’t run out and grab this book now, something is wrong with me! I have it on my library hold list, too, but I have a feeling I’ll be grabbing it a little sooner.

    Your review was outstanding. As I’m sure I’ve said a billion times, personal stories within book reviews are my absolute favorites. And an overwhelmingly positive review, complete with gushing, is a sure-fire way to make me pick up a book! Woo!

  6. I’m with Meg, I love reading personal stories in reviews. They make them even more interesting. It’s awesome reading about how someone REALLY connected with a story and/or character.

    I have yet to read any John Green or David Levithan (wait, hold your fire!), but I intend to asap. John Green is hilarious while still making powerful points (I gather this based on reviews of his books) and I’ve read that David Levithan writes some very poignant stories. I want to start with love is the Higher Law for Levithan and read either Looking for Alaska or Paper Towns for John Green. Then Will Grayson Will Grayson :)

    On September 11, I was in 2nd grade and I remembered being confused and annoyed at how all TV programs were cancelled and it was repeated clips of planes crashing into random towers. Ah the naivete of youth. I wish I remembered it more, I don’t even remember if we were told in school what was happening. I was still pretty young. I completely agree that 9/11 defines this (my) generation. Such a sad thing. In 8th grade we read about it again and it seemed more real to me; the stories and pictures. I almost cried, reading about the firefighters, the passengers, the people going about their daily work business. All gone. Man.

    • Ari,

      Thanks for sharing your personal story. You were only 1 year older than my sister, so your stories are pretty similar. I loved Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines and I am currently in the middle of Looking for Alaska, which I have liked so far. You must get on this RIGHT NOW! It is required reading ;)

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