Levithan, David. 19 Love Songs. Knopf, 2020. ISBN 978-1984848635 320 pp. $
These memoirs and short stories on themes of love, identity, religion and young adult themes had me reading elegant, emotional passages out loud to my partner. One gem after another.
Levithan, David. The Realm of Possibility. Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. ISBN 978-0375836572 210 pp. $6.99
This novel in verse is strong and diverse, with clever turns of phrase and interesting connected characters that keep it from being mediocre. The story follows a group of students through their daily lives, tinged with assorted teen angst and beauty: a dying mom, a multicultural romance, love, consummated and unrequited. Grouped into sets, each section lists the voices that contribute to the section, and Levithan deftly conveys each speaker without naming him or her.
Occassionally the experimentations with form and style detracts from the content, but Levithan hits his mark with The Patron Saint of Stoners, humorous and heart-wrenching in one swoop, and A Cue from Nature: “Run outside during a thunderstom/That downpour, that conquered hesitation, that exhilaration/That’s what unlonely is like.” Possibility, the final poem is magnificant in it’s prose-like summation and brings the book full circle – like a ring.
The full representation of the teen experience makes the book a winner. The teal blue cover and claddagh ring on the cover give it a girly vibe. Purchase for your teens to sigh over the deep truth of lines like “once time is lit, it will burn/ whether or not you’re breathing it in./ even after smoke becomes air/there is a memory of smoke.”
Levithan, David. Are We There Yet? Knopf, 2007 (reprint). ISBN 978-0375839566 224 pp. $8.99
Elijah used to idolized his big brother, but growing older has meant growing apart. Their parents coerce them into taking a trip to Italy to reconnect. High school senior stoner Elijah wants to wander and experience, while Danny, a twenty-something ad-exec, wants to stick to the timetable. The two get on one another’s nerves more and more, finding occasional common ground in museums and reminiscence. When Elijah finds romance with a tourista and begins spending all his time with her, Danny finds he not only misses his brother’s presence, but has to confront his sad and lonely life.
The two slightly stereotyped characters quickly become real people who experience a subtle emotional growth as they travel through Venice, Florence and Italy. These beautiful places become a rich background for the inner journey, and the story concludes on Elijah’s philosophy to go for “happy,” rather than “normal.” A strong third novel from Levithan that revisits themes that we all need love, that different is okay, and we all have commonalities that make us human.
This review was originally published on the Hip Librarian’s Book Blog July 12, 2005.