Published: August 2009, Random House
Pages: 163 pages, paperback
Acquired: Purchased myself
Summary (from Goodreads): 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 review: I'll admit it - this is the first David Levithan novel I've ever read. I know, shocking, right? I'm an absolutely huge YA fan so I thought it was about time I checked out something of his, seeing as all I ever read is rave reviews of his work. I decided to start with Love is the Higher Law as it seemed like something so different from your run of the mill YA contemporary (though I will always love them, sometimes I fancy a change). The cover also grabbed me straight away, as did the subject matter, of course.
Like everybody, I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the news about a plane hitting the World Trade Centre. It was just before lunch time when I heard and I remember us watching the news footage in our R.S. classroom at school - we were NEVER allowed to watch TV during lunch break so I knew something serious had happened. I don't think I quite realised the severity of the situation, though, and it wasn't until I got home that night and looked through photos of my recent trip to New York that things really sunk it. I felt shaken by what happened - I think everybody did - and even though I was thousands of miles away with no friends of family in New York I couldn't help but wish there was something I could do to help.
It's not something I will ever be able to forget and it's not something we should ever forget. There's so much to say about what happened on that day and I think Levithan says everything that needs to be said. This book is absolutely beautiful and not only is it an entertaining YA read - it's an important book.
The writing is wonderful and there are so many passages I want to quote but I've narrowed it down to a couple that I have to share with you. If you haven't got this one on your wish list then I really hope this makes the decision for you:
'Sometimes I have to backtrack when my candle goes out, and relight it on one of the candles I lit only moments before. Every now and then I look to see how the woman in the green raincoat is doing. Two other people, a couple, have seen us and are now using their own lighter to save more candles. It feels like the right thing to do, even though the light we make doesn't change what's happened. We are making our own temporary constellation, and it doesn't spell a single word.'
Honestly, how gorgeous is that passage? I absolutely loved that section of the book and it was the first bit that I cried at - definitely not the last, as we all know I'm a hardcore crier!
This next passage is fantastic. I think it definitely sums up how a lot of people were feeling after the attacks - I know it's something I considered numerous times before I flew to Florida or went to a big event.
'I meet up with John that night and I'm nervous about going to midtown. Which is insane - it's pretty ridiculous to imagine Osama bin Laden in a cave in Afghanistan telling his minions, "We got the World Trade Center, we got the Pentagon, we missed the White House, but now we're going to get... Travis!" But I guess the thing about fear is that it defies the laws of rationality. It creates its own laws instead.'
Brilliant. As I said at the beginning of this review, I decided to give David Levithan a try as everybody seems to sing his praises from the rooftops. I completely get it. The man is absolutely awesome. His ability to craft realistic teenage characters is second to none, their voices are perfect. They could have been me as a teenager, they could be any one of my friends. I was completely blown away by Love is the Higher Law - I urge you to read it and if you've already read it, read it again. I know I definitely will be.
This isn't just a book for YA fans. This is a book for anybody who was affected by what happened on 9/11 and anybody that was touched by the human kindness that came after. This book will make you cry and make you smile, it will make you proud at what you did to help and, without sounding too cringey (I hope), it will make you see that love really is the higher law.
First line: 'My first thought is: My mother is dead.'
Total: 18/20 (A)