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Are We There Yet? Hardcover – July 12, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up -Danny Silver, 23, is a workaholic advertising executive; his laid-back, 17-year-old brother, Elijah, absolutely drives him wild with his untied sneakers and lack of focus. The teen, who once idolized his sibling, now feels that he would never want to be Danny. The brothers are tricked by their parents into vacationing together in Italy. They both dread the experience, believing that they have little in common. Once abroad, they tiptoe around one another, connecting when they're in museums together, a reminder of childhood occasions spent similarly with their mother and father. They both doubt that there is enough between them to rekindle a bond. And then Elijah has a chance encounter with a college dropout with whom he falls head over heels in love. When he introduces Julia to Danny, she finds that she's attracted to him, too, and that catapults Danny into a situation in which he has to determine his priorities. The insightful and gently humorous narration alternates between the thoughts and experiences of the two brothers. Teens will relate deeply to Elijah and gain insight into Danny's attitudes as well. Levithan, author of Boy Meets Boy (2003) and The Realm of Possibility (2004, both Knopf), gets better and better with each book. This novel will appeal to a broader audience than the earlier titles and is a priority choice. References to sexual behavior and marijuana and acid use are included.-Susan Riley, Mount Kisco Public Library, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 10-12. Elijah and Danny are brothers who have grown apart. Elijah is a mellow, kind, live-in-the-moment, pot-smoking teen who likes to wonder about things and to wander without a plan. Danny, six years Elijah's senior, is a young up-and-comer with a prestigious New York law firm, who dresses meticulously and exerts a rigid control both on his own life and on the lives of those around him. In an attempt to draw their sons back together, the boys' parents arrange a vacation to Italy. But the appearance of a girl who may have the power to separate the two brothers even further means the trip may not reach its intended goal. Levithan's latest is a stylized, pensive, almost mournful piece that outwardly travels through three of Italy's most famed cities but is focused almost exclusively on the interior landscapes of two uniquely sympathetic young men. At times overly self-aware, the book's literary complexity and minimal action make this a title for older readers attracted to mature psychological and philosophical perspectives. Holly Koelling
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 770L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (July 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037582846X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375828461
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,699,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I find it downright baffling to write about myself, which is why I'm considering it somewhat cruel and usual to have to write this brief bio and to update it now and then. The factual approach (born '72, Brown '94, first book '03) seems a bit dry, while the emotional landscape (happy childhood, happy adolescence - give or take a few poems - and happy adulthood so far) sounds horribly well-adjusted. The only addiction I've ever had was a brief spiral into the arms of diet Dr Pepper, unless you count My So-Called Life episodes as a drug. I am evangelical in my musical beliefs.

Luckily, I am much happier talking about my books than I am talking about myself. My first novel, Boy Meets Boy, started as a story I wrote for my friends for Valentine's Day (something I've done for the past twenty-two years and counting) and turned itself into a teen novel. When not writing during spare hours on weekends, I am editorial director at Scholastic, and the founding editor of the PUSH imprint, which is devoted to finding new voices and new authors in teen literature. (Check it out at

With Boy Meets Boy, I basically set out to write the book that I dreamed of getting as an editor - a book about gay teens that doesn't conform to the old norms about gay teens in literature (i.e. it has to be about a gay uncle, or a teen who gets beaten up for being gay, or about outcasts who come out and find they're still outcasts, albeit outcasts with their outcastedness in common.) I'm often asked if the book is a work of fantasy or a work of reality, and the answer is right down the middle - it's about where we're going, and where we should be. Of Boy Meets Boy, the reviewer at Booklist wrote: "In its blithe acceptance and celebration of human differences, this is arguably the most important gay novel since Annie on My Mind and seems to represent a revolution in the publishing of gay-themed books for adolescents" - which pretty much blew me away when I read it. Viva la revolution!

My second book, The Realm of Possibility, is about twenty teens who all go to the same high school, and how their lives interconnect. Each part is written in its own style, and I'm hoping they all add up to a novel that conveys all the randomness and intersection that goes on in our lives - two things I'm incredibly fascinated by. The book is written in both poetry and linebroken prose - something I never dreamed I would write. But I was inspired by writers such as Virginia Euwer Wolff, Billy Merrell, Eireann Corrigan, and Marie Howe to try it. It is often said that reading is the greatest inspiration to writing, and this is definitely the case for me.

My third novel, Are We There Yet?, is about two brothers who are tricked into taking a trip to Italy together. The natural questions to ask when faced with this summary are: (a) Do you have a brother? (Yes.); (b) Is he the brother in the book? (He's neither brother in the book.); (c) Have you been to Italy? (Yes.); (d) Which city was your favorite? (Venice.); (e) Is this based on your trip there? (The sights are, but the story isn't; the whole time I was there, I took notes in my notebook, not knowing exactly what they'd be for.)

Marly's Ghost, my fourth novel, is a Valentine's Day retelling of A Christmas Carol, illustrated by my friend Brian Selznick. To write it, I went through A Christmas Carol and remixed it - took phrases and themes and created a new version, centering around a boy named Ben whose girlfriend, Marly, has just died. When he looks like he's giving up on life, Marly reappears in ghost form - and sends some other ghosts to get him to embrace life again. It was a hard book to write - it's about both love and grief, two very difficult things to capture truthfully. But I genuinely don't see any reason to write a book if it doesn't feel like a challenge.

My next book came unexpectedly. My friend Rachel Cohn proposed that we write a back-and-forth novel, with her writing from a girl's perspective and me writing from a boy's. The result is Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, a kick- butt love story that we wrote over a summer without really planning it out. It just happened, and it was one of the best writing experiences I ever had. It has even been bought for the movies - stay tuned on that front.

A different kind of collaboration is The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities, an anthology I co-edited with my best friend Billy Merrell. It contains true stories from LGBTQ writers under the age of 23, and the Lambda Award for Best LBGTQ Children's/Teen Book.

Other anthologies I've edited or co-edited include: 21 Proms, a collection of prom stories by YA authors, co-edited with Daniel Ehrenhaft; Friends, an anthology of middle-grade friendship stories, co-edited with Ann M. Martin; and three PUSH anthologies of the best young writers and artists in America: You Are Here, This Is Now (2002), Where We Are, What We See (2005), We Are Quiet, We Are Loud (2008). Another PUSH anthology is This is PUSH, featuring new work from all of the authors who've written for PUSH.

My sixth novel, Wide Awake, starts with the election of the first gay Jewish president, and is about two boyfriends who must go to Kansas when the election results are threatened. In many ways, it's a "sequel in spirit" to Boy Meets Boy, since it's about many of the same things - love, friendship tolerance, and taking a stand for what you believe in. It was written right after the 2004 election, and published right before the 2006 election, which made me hope that a gay Jewish president was a closer reality than I might have thought. (No, I have no intention to run. But if you read the book now, it's sometimes how eerie how it echoes the 2008 race.)

My second collaboration with Rachel Cohn, Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List, was inspired by a phrase my best friend Nick and I came up with after he moved to New York City. It's about a straight girl and a gay boy who've been best friends forever . . . but have to deal with a lot of things that have gone unsaid after the boy (Ely) kisses the girl's (Naomi's) boyfriend. This time, Rachel and I decided to rotate the point of view between a number of characters, not just the titular two. The result was harder to write, but just as fun to create.

How They Met, and Other Stories, was published in 2008, which happened to be the twentieth anniversary of my Valentine Story tradition. It contains a few stories I wrote in high school and college, and more that I wrote more recently, some for anthologies, and some just for myself and my friends.

The first series I ever worked on (as a writer) is Likely Story, which I wrote with two of my friends, Chris Van Etten and David Ozanich, under the pen name David Van Etten. Chris and David both have experience working on soap operas, and had the idea for a TV show about the daughter of a soap opera diva who ends up running a soap opera of her own. I know nothing about writing a TV show, so I said, "Hey, that would be fun to write as a series of books, too!" And, voila!, Likely Story was born. It was a blast to write, and the main character, Mallory, is one of my favorites yet.

In 2009, Knopf published Love is the Higher Law. It's the story of three teenagers in New York on 9/11, and how their lives intertwine in the days and weeks and months that follow. I know this sounds grim, but it's really the story of things coming together even as it feels like the world is falling apart -- because that's how it felt to be in New York at that time, both tragic because of the events that happened and magical in the way that everyone became their better selves in the face of it. It's a love story between friends, a love story for a city, and a love story for love itself, and the way it can get us through things, however daunting or shocking they may be. Or at least that's what I aimed for. I hope you'll read it and let me know if I got there.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson started, in many ways, back in college, when I kept being mistaken for another student named David Leventhal. He was a beautiful dancer; I was not. So people would continually come up to me and say things like, "I saw you on stage last night - who would have thought you could be so graceful?" And I'd have to say, "Um...that wasn't me." Our paths finally crossed at the end of school, and we became best friends when we both moved to New York City - him to dance, me to edit and write. Fast forward ten years or so - I had the idea to write a book about two boys with the same name, and called my friend John Green about it. He said yes on the spot, and it took us five years from first conversation to publication day. The result? A novel about identity, love, and what it's like to make a musical out of your own life. You know, the universal themes.

My third novel with Rachel Cohn, called Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, came out in October 2010. It's a romantic cat-and-mouse chase through New York, with a special shoutout to The Strand, a bookstore I am particularly fond of.

The Lover's Dictionary, my first novel about post-teenagers, was published by FSG at the start of 2011. It's the story of a relationship told entirely in dictionary form. Once again, this started out as a Valentine's Day story, and grew from there. I'd often been asked if it would be different to write about adults than it is to write about teens, and I learned that, no, there isn't any difference. A story is a story. And when I write, I'm not thinking of audience -- just of being true to the story. My hope is Lover's Dictionary is as honest as I can be,

Upcoming? A different kind of YA collaboration for me -- a novel I wrote based on photographs my friend Jonathan Farmer gave me. I never knew which photo would come next, and he never knew what I was writing. The result is a very strange, somewhat dark, portrait of a boy on the verge of a complete breakdown. It's called Every You, Every Me, and it will be published in fall 2011.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

(What's this?)
#92 in Books > Teens
#92 in Books > Teens

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on August 11, 2005
Format: Library Binding
Elijah and Danny are brothers. Elijah is the dreamy brother, who loves to hang out with his friends at boarding school and has endless conversations with strangers. Danny is the elder brother --- hardworking, serious, and completely devoted to his first job in advertising. Elijah thinks of Danny as being a sellout, a phony, and a liar. Danny thinks of Elijah as being a penniless, pothead fallback, with no sense of reality. Both brothers have forgotten the affection they once had for each other.

In an attempt to get the two siblings to communicate again, their parents send them on a tour of Italy. An impressionistic blend of novel, travelogue and poetry, ARE WE THERE YET? is about the brothers' travels through Venice, Florence and Rome. Travel, particularly in a foreign country, has a disorienting quality that makes things seem simultaneously immediate and very faraway. David Levithan captures this paradox, as well as the strange coincidences and people the two brothers encounter along the way. He covers the major sites of each city, along with minor sites important to each character.

Notably, Levithan writes about the remnants of once-thriving Jewish communities in each city. When the brothers visit the infamous Jewish ghetto in Venice, immortalized by Shakespeare's Shylock, they read that 8,000 Italian Jews were sent to concentration camps during the Holocaust. Only eight returned. Later, a guide notes that the Venetian Jewish community now numbers about 600 in a city of approximately 63,000. Doubly an outsider, as an American-Jew in an Italian city filled with some of the most famous Christian artwork in the world, Danny starts to question his place in the world, and a system of values that has left him largely alone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Houston on July 10, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'd never read any David Levithan books before, so this was my first and I will be looking for more! It was a quick, easy read. I managed it in a single afternoon. A great travel story about the reconnection between two brothers who have drifted apart, not because of any great rift or epic argument, but mostly just because of life and growing up. That really resonates with me, as it would for many people, I would imagine. My husband and I both have brothers (the age gap between my husband and his brother is large, similar to the gap between Danny and Elijah), and Levithan is spot-on when he writes about the evolution of the relationship between Elijah and Danny--the closeness in childhood, the tension during adolescence, the way life gets in the way as you age. I also loved the setting (Italy!). I would have liked the book to be longer, but that's just because I enjoyed the writing and the characters so much.
Read it! And then share it with your brother/sister/best friend!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Chris Akeley on June 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is the kind of book that makes me want to do something extremely daring and meaningful. Like jumping off something or swimming in my pool with my clothes on (which is what I did...)This book is extremely well written and a poignant,beautiful look at relationships. Danny and Elijah are well developed characters and watching their relationship unfold and grow is lovely. The writer, David Levithan, does a beautiful job using the setting, Italy, to ground the story and provide real-life context. The personal adventures both brothers go on provide a well-written and heartfelt look at insecurities and problems they have. The most basic area of the plot is perdictable, but the plot is not what makes this story special. It's the characters and the development of thier relationship. A wonderful and quick read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Katelin on June 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book had all of the characteristics of a Levithan novel; chracters that you could relate to, emotional problems that one could understand, and deeper thoughts that one might never have thought of before.
It wasn't funny like the summary of the book had claimed, but it was a book worth reading if only because it was one that made you think and one that will probably be remembered
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DJ on April 11, 2015
Format: Paperback
Solid book, but its main weakness is the sheer forgettablility of it (is that even a word?)

Levithan brings his great humor in like always, but the characters, though pleasant, are not strong enough to warrant much thought. Same goes for the plot. In the end, you have an enjoyable read, but I forgot the plot summary a few weeks later.
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Format: Hardcover
My David Levithan obsession continues! After reading and adoring Every Day, I went out and bought four more David Levithan books, Are We There Yet? being one that really intrigued me. Much is made of the relationships between sisters, but I've certainly not read many books about the relationships between brothers. And never having been a brother myself (but having three of them), I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

Born seven years apart, Danny and Elijah are complete opposites - Danny is a workaholic advertising guru and Elijah is a high school student who is more interested in chilling out and getting stoned than really being engaged with the world. And their relationship is incredibly strained - they have very little in common and are sent on holiday together by their parents but aren't really interested in spending any time together.

I found both of them frustrating, but Elijah in particular was quite likable, despite his pretty laid-back attitude towards life. I do wish there had been more about Julia's past as I found it quite hard to understand her behaviour, which wasn't really wierd but rather quite random. What I did like though was that there wasn't a huge focus on the relationships between Julie and the brothers, instead it was more of a hint of what could have been.

Although the relationship between the brothers changes during the course of their journey, I found it quite hard to pinpoint exactly when it evolved, which is both a positive and a negative - a positive because there's nothing worse than the blatant 'let's love each other now' moment, and a negative in that I didn't really understand why their relationship changed and they became closer.

The setting of Are We There Yet?
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