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Love Is the Higher Law Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 25, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—Claire and Peter are friendly acquaintances at their New York City high school. Jasper is a freshman in college. They attend a mutual friend's party, and Peter and Jasper make a date for the evening of September 11, 2001. They reschedule and have an excruciating date a week later. Claire and Jasper meet again by chance at Ground Zero when neither can sleep. Claire is called to action, Peter is reverent, and Jasper, a kind of "expert dodger," can't feel a thing. The three come to develop a deep friendship. Levithan's character development is quick and seamless. He defines the trio's personae by how they perceive the tragedy, how they interact, and how they observe the world. The author's prose has never been deeper in thought or feeling. His writing here is especially pure—unsentimental, restrained, and full of love for his characters and setting. Though the trio's talks and emails are philosophically sophisticated, Love Is the Higher Law is steadily paced and tightly, economically written. Discussion of the U.S. invasion of Iraq feels like overkill, but it brings the novel to an appropriately queasy end. Levithan captures the mood of post-9/11 New York exquisitely, slashed open to reveal a deep heart.—Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library END

About the Author

David Levithan is a children’s book editor in New York City. He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 920L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (August 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375834680
  • ASIN: B005HKSFYQ
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,187,186 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 www.thisispush.com.)

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 

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#58 in Books > Teens
#58 in Books > Teens

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on September 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Huge thanks to the girl who sat next to me on the bus to Chicago from ALA. She had this ARC in her hands when she boarded the bus for our 3 1/2 hour trip home, and she finished it by the time the trip was over. When I asked how she liked it, she nodded, I believe, then swallowed a lump in her throat, and offered me the book. Once again, thank you!

Do you remember where you were on 9/11? The characters in LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW were all in New York City. So was David Levithan, and that experience was inspiration for this book. As Levithan points out in the Author's Note, many young people today may be too young to have first-hand memories of that world-changing day. By reading the experiences of Jasper, Peter, and Claire, perhaps the emotions of that day and its aftermath can be experienced by readers in the years to come.

As the book begins, each character shares where they were and what it was like at the moment. Peter and Claire were affected immediately, while Jasper finds it difficult to admit that he slept through the actual attack and learned about it as he listened to Peter Jennings on the news.

The personal experiences of the three become intertwined as the story continues. All three are surprised at how directly they feel the emotions of the event. The life they once took for granted, the city they've always known as home, and the atmosphere surrounding them have them asking questions that have no real answers.

David Levithan captures the unique yet universal feelings inspired by the event that touched us all. Amidst the unanswered questions are feelings of greater appreciation for family and friends, the sympathy that goes out to those who lost and suffered most, and the human condition that connects the entire world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lori VINE VOICE on November 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If this novel doesn't affect you you are probably an unfeeling person...just saying! This book is about 9/11, but seen through the eyes of three teens who live in NYC. You would think that it would be depressing and downtrodden, but no, Levithan took the saddest event in US history and wrote a book about hope around it. He shines a light on the good of people.

This book is told from three different characters perspectives. All of them are insightful and intelligent. They each were effected, but in completely different ways. You get to be a witness to the ways they handle it, the friendships they make and eventually to their healing.

There's no way to read this book and not remember where you were that day. I was a freshman in high school, so I was awake. I was at school in science class and somehow word reached our corner of TN very quickly because we turned on the TV before the second Tower was hit. We watched as the first Tower fell and people were running away. At the time, I don't think I comprehended that magnitude of what was happening. How could I? I had no scale to judge it by. It was of course a day that none of us will ever forget.

David Levithan took this day on beautifully. Not just any author could have done it. This book is hard for me to review. Not that it was a difficult book to read, it's just difficult to put it into words. You should read it for yourself!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on September 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As we recently commemorated the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many of us noted that we were surprised not only that the original emotions of that day can be called up so vividly, but that we are still functioning eight years later, now occupying a future that few of us could imagine on that horrific day. Young adult author David Levithan, recognizing the relative scarcity of fiction for young people centering on 9/11, realized recently that those who are teenagers now were in elementary school at the time of the attacks, that they may be in danger of losing both that immediacy of feeling and the context of understanding. LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW is his answer to that lack, as he poignantly tells the stories of three New York City teenagers who experienced the attacks in a variety of ways.

Claire is in many ways the closest to the events, at least geographically; she and her family can't return to their downtown apartment after the towers fall. In the weeks following the attacks, she suffers from sleeplessness, walking the streets of her neighborhood, and, in one moving scene, helping a stranger relight the candles of a makeshift shrine at Union Square Park after they've been extinguished by a rainstorm. Peter is the only one of the three who witnesses the attacks; he's skipping school to buy the new Bob Dylan album when he sees the plane strike the second tower. He had been anticipating that Tuesday night up until then, looking forward almost giddily to a first date with a cute guy he just met. But in the aftermath of the attacks, Peter is not sure how, or whether, to love someone new.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly Blair on September 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I finished this book and my first response was to tell everyone to read it. Levithan manages to tackle two complex topics-9/11 and teenage years-beautifully. I was moved by the characters and their struggles and often found myself tearing up while I was reading.

My husband was surprised to see me reading this book. He remarked that I often avoid TV shows and movies that talk about 9/11; this is very true. I find the coverage of the people who died that day so sad that I try to avoid it. This book does not focus on that aspect of the day. Instead it captures what it is like for those who lived. It deals with how they got by in those first few days after the tragedy. There is something in each character that makes them relatable. While you may have not reacted the same way they did, you can understand their feelings and thoughts. All of this combined to make an honest and true story.

Another thing that I liked about this story was that it focused on teens in New York City. In many ways, this tragedy affected those living in the city differently than the rest of the world. They saw things with their eyes in a way that could not be captured on film. They lived the tragedy in a way that I never will. Levithan captures all of this brilliantly and is able to convey these feelings in such a powerful way.

Review: I usually find myself subconsciously skimming through passages of books while reading. With this book, I made sure to read every single word. There is so much that can be found and learned in the 176 pages of this book. A highly recommended read!
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