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Top 5 Things I Love About David Levithan October 7, 2014

Posted by ccbooks in Analysis.
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This is a Top 5 Things post that I’ll write on my own, as Ana doesn’t share my love of David Levithan’s books. Part of this is certainly literary taste: Ana is enamored of plot and many of Levithan’s books, especially the early ones, focus more on characterization and atmosphere than action. It may also be differing experiences of adolescence. In any case, here is my list:

5. Friendships that don’t become romantic

This is not to imply that Levithan isn’t a great writer of romance. He’s written some of my favorite couples in all of YA literature (Nick and Norah, Noah and Paul). But he’s also brilliant at writing about friendship and one of my favorite chapters is the one in The Realm of Possibility about Lily and Jed who love each other, but are not ‘in love.’

4. Variations on high school cliches

Levithan’s first book Boy meets Boy, intentionally turned the usual high school tropes on their heads. Published in 2003, a year before Massachusetts, it was a bit of an outlier for it’s time. The football quarterback is also the homecoming queen for example. But even in books set closer to our own experience, such as The Realm of Possibility or Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, Levithan and his co-writer Rachel Cohn manage to make the stock characters of rich girl, jock, or stoner into individuals.

3. Nuanced family relationships

My favorite Levithan book just might be Are We There Yet?, the story of two brothers on a trip to Italy. Part of this is because there are so many references to my own childhood favorites (such as E.L. Konigsburg) but mostly it’s the fantastic depiction of how you can share so much with a sibling and yet still have so much to learn about them. My one quibble with this book is that Julia is a bit of a MPDG but I have met people like her while staying in hostels so I will mostly let it slide. And (SPOILER) neither brother ends up with her at the end, which is exactly as it should be.

2. Girls I can identify with

I can remember reading The Realm of Possibility as a teen and thinking “Hey, she sounds like me” multiple times. This rarely happened in depictions of teen culture for me and is one reason why I was never particularly into John Hughes movies or 10 Things I Hate About You.  Levithan’s characters may have different tastes in music (Norah) or live in different places (Lily) but they were almost always kindred spirits.

1. Unfailing optimism

The pervasive sense throughout all of Levithan’s books is hope. Whether they are dealing with struggles over sexuality, the aftermath of terrorism, personal journeys or political action, the characters look to the future with hope and optimism.

**Editing!!

One last bonus–in addition to being a writer, Levithan is also an EDITOR for Scholastic! Some of the writers he works with are my very favorites in YA, including Libba Bray and Maggie Stiefvater.

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