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