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Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan (Review)

Title: Love is the Higher Law
Author(s): David Levithan
Edition: Paperback, 176 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 25, 2009
Source: Owned
Buy: Amazon Barnes & Noble - Book Depository - Inkwood Books

The Summary

First there is a Before, and then there is an After. . . .

The lives of three teens—Claire, Jasper, and Peter—are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents’ frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he’s okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire’s, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him.

Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other’s in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by.

David Levithan has written a novel of loss and grief, but also one of hope and redemption as his characters slowly learn to move forward in their lives, despite being changed forever.

My Opinion

I am a huge fan of David Levithan.  He writes beautiful stories, capturing the human experience with the utmost care and craft.  But none of his books come close to Love is the Higher Law.  This book is heartbreaking and raw, examining one of the worst events in American history, September 11th, through the eyes of three different teens.  Tragically beautiful, this is a book that needs to be included in Young Adult library collections, and classroom libraries.

Levithan picks an appropriate tool to navigate such a hard topic.  Using three different perspectives shapes the book in a concrete way.  The three teens, Claire, Jasper, and Peter, each experience the events of 9/11 differently.  Claire is at school when the planes hit, and she rushes to her brother's elementary school to be with him.  Meanwhile, Peter is waiting at the Tower Records a couple blocks down from the Towers, and feels the impact from the explosions.  And through the whole incident, Jasper is asleep, hungover from a party the night before, and just waking to see the aftermath.  With these three different experiences, characters stories build one within the other as the story progresses.

What I always love about Levithan's writing is the lyrical quality to his dialogue and the beautifully descriptive scenes.  Both transport you into the lives and feelings of his characters; Love is the Higher Law is no exception.  I actually feel that the book is anchored so well in the human experience that it transcends above the physical events, and not in a way that does disservice to the memory of those who were killed.  But this transcendence does allow readers who may not remember 9/11, (they may have been too young, or not even American), to travel with the characters, experiencing the emotions that people felt and still feel.  Overall, Love is the Higher Law is a look on how a human being, in this case three teens, faced with such a horrific event deal with the aftermath.

For a book centralized around such an intense and deeply personal event, being a sensitive and delicate authors is imperative.  For most Americans, September 11th is a scar on the face of our country, one which will last forever.  To write about it takes an author of a high caliber, as well as an author who isn't on the outside of the events looking in.  Levithan lives in New York, and was on of the thousands of people affected by 9/11.  This personal involvement is felt within every word.  Love is the Higher Law is a powerful story about survival, grief, friendship, and life.  But above all it is a book about love.


Check out David Levithan reading an excerpt of Love is the Higher Law

Part One

Part Two

Here is a really great interview with David Levithan about Love is the Higher Law from the ladies over at Book Divas.

Final Rating

Book Cover: 5/5
Book Title: 5/5
Plot: 9/10
Characters: 9/10
Writing: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Overall: 48/50: A

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