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How They Met and Other Stories (Borzoi Books) Paperback – December 22, 2009
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It was my aunt who pimped me out.
We had this arrangement: I would get to live with her for a few weeks over the summer and take a pre-college course at Columbia before my senior year. In return, I wouldn't have to do a thing besides stay out of the way. It sounded like a good plan to me, except that when I got to Columbia on the first day of summer classes, I found that my course had been dropped. Apparently, there'd been a notice that nobody in my family had bothered to notice.
I thought Aunt Celia would be mad. Or at least concerned. But instead she said, "Well, this could actually solve Elise's problem."
Elise was a friend of Aunt Celia's who lived in the same apartment building. She had a six-year-old daughter.
"I'm sure you're wonderful with children," Aunt Celia told me.
This was an especially strange statement coming from Aunt Celia, who (as far as I could tell) considered the continued existence of children to be something akin to a plague. We have a picture we love to look at in my immediate family, taken right after my brother, Jonathan, was born. It's Aunt Celia's turn to hold him, and from the look on her face and the positioning of her body, you'd think that someone had asked her to cradle a ten-pound turd. Nothing personal against Jonathan--I'm sure she was the same with me. As Jonathan and I grew up, Aunt Celia always gave us presents to "save for later." For my seventh birthday I received a pair of Tiffany candlesticks. For my eighth, it was a matching finger bowl. I freaked out, thinking a finger bowl was meant to hold fingers. (Aunt Celia left the room so my parents could explain.) When I turned thirteen, Aunt Celia actually seemed relieved. She finally stopped maintaining any pretense of treating me like a child, and started treating me like a lesser form of adult instead.
"Aren't you?" she now prompted. "Wonderful? With children?"
I didn't know where we were going with this, but I was sure that If I had no reason to stay in New York, Aunt Celia would ship me back to suburbia faster than she could dial out for dinner. Even if I found a way to avoid being underfoot, she would be unnerved by the concept of me being underfoot.
"I'm wonderful with children," I assured her. Various instances of me "babysitting" Jonathan flashed through my head--we hadn't been allowed to have pets, so I'd often encouraged him to act like one. I thought it best not to mention the particulars of my sitting experience, which, at its most extreme, stopped just short of accidental lobotomy.
"Perfect," she said. Then she picked up her cell phone off the front table, speed-dialed, and told the person on the other end, "Elise, it's Celia. I have a solution for the whole Astrid affair. My nephew . . . yes, Gabriel. The one I was telling you about . . . escaping my sister, yes. Well, it seems that his course has been canceled. And I happen to know he's wonderful with children. A complete charmer . . . Yes, he's entirely free. . . . I'm sure those hours would be fine. . . . He's delighted. . . . You'll see him then. . . . Yes, it's quite a loaded potato . . . . Absolutely my pleasure!"
She hung up and looked at me like I'd just been checked off a list.
"It's all set," she said. "Although you'll have to dress nicer than that."
"What's all set?" I asked. If I couldn't do it in a T-shirt, I was worried.
"Why, your job. For the next three weeks."
"Which is . . . ?" I coaxed.
She sighed. "To take care of Elise's daughter, Arabella. You'll love her. She's wonderful."
No follow-up questions were possible. With an air kiss and a trail of perfume, Aunt Celia was off.
I started the next morning at eight. My class was supposed to have started at ten, and I'd looked forward to the extra hours of sleep. Instead, Aunt Celia came into my room at seven-fifteen, turned on the lights, released a low-octaved "Be ready by eight," and left before I could see her without the compensations of makeup.
Even after I cured my early-morning dayblindness with two cups of coffee and a shower prolonged by ten minutes of tangential thinking, I still wasn't fully awake when I rang the doorbell of apartment 8C. I looked presentable enough in my button-down shirt and khakis, but my mind felt buttoned-down and khaki as well. I was already starting to resent my new job.
Aunt Celia's friend Elise was three-quarters out the door when she opened it for me.
"You must be Gabriel," she said. "I've heard so much about you. Come in."
Elise was one of those women who exercised so often that she was starting to look like a piece of exercise equipment herself. She walked around the apartment as if she were still on a treadmill, telling me about emergency numbers and people to call and when to expect her back.
"I really appreciate you doing this," she said, putting on her jacket and leading me down a hallway. "Arabella's back here."
Arabella's door was decorated with a framed copy of the unicorn tapestry from The Cloisters. Elise knocked three quick raps into the door, then opened it for me. I was astounded, but not particularly surprised, by the room that was revealed to me. It was everything you might expect from a fairly rich New York City girl named Arabella. It was designed like a Vogue version of Disney, with a four-poster bed and no-poster walls. Pink was the dominant color, with blue and green playing the major supporting roles. My attention was caught by a number of wide-eyed dolls relegated to size-order rows on a magisterial display shelf, as if they were about to take a class picture and had dressed for the occasion. This was the room I had never dreamed about as a little boy, and still feared now. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
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.
Top Customer Reviews
Best known for his positive, normalizing portrayals of teen relationships --- regardless of sexual orientation --- Levithan's stories focus on those longings that are the common denominators for the human heart. HOW THEY MET features matchmakers, chance encounters and broken hearts, in addition to the different kinds of love that exist between family and friends.
The collection begins with "Starbucks Boy," a hilarious story about the all-too-common experience of crushing on the neighborhood barista. Readers will no doubt identify with the self-aware tone of Levithan's narrator:
"Now, it has to be one of Starbucks's more brilliant marketing strategies to maintain at least one completely dreamy guy behind the counter at any given shift. This guy is invariably known as Starbucks Boy to the hundreds of regular customers who have a crush on him, and the glory of it is that he always seems just accessible enough to be within reach, but never accessible enough to actually touch.... He is, unlike most beautiful people you've ever encountered, friendly --- and you honestly believe it's not because that's a part of his job....[you] think that the way he says `good morning' or 'have a good one' or 'here you go' to you is a little different than the way he says it to anyone else. Or at least that's the hope.Read more ›
How They Met, and Other Stories by David Levithan is more than just a collection of eighteen tales written by the same hand. The author prefers to call them as "stories about love" rather than "love stories," and I agree. This anthology is a many-splendored thing, a testament to different kinds of love: first crushes, the love of family, coincidental meetings, set-ups, break-ups, and make-ups. The Memory Dance celebrates a marriage of forty years, while Lost Sometimes (previously released in the 21 Proms anthology) has someone looking for more in his relationship.
As he did in The Realm of Possibility, Levithan has once again captured multiple voices and made it seem effortless. He offers first-person, second-person, and third-person narratives, with protagonists ranging in age from their teen years to their twilight years.
Starbucks Boy was my favorite piece in this collection, with its sweet story of a six-year-old who knows what (or who) is best for her new baby-sitter. The Number of People Who Meet on Airplanes and What a Song Can Do also vied for my affection.
The stories are not connected, and yet they are: By their underlying currents. By what they envoke (empathy and sympathy, tears and laughter) in readers. Each story has a different piece of the heart; when put together, they make for the loveliest of puzzles.
How They Met, and Other Stories is recommended for teens and adults.
HOW THEY MET, AND OTHER STORIES is the latest book by David Levithan (Boy Meets Boy). It is a collection of eighteen short stories about love, longing, and even lust. This wonderful group of stories includes brief crushes, relationships with happily-ever-after endings, and tales of love gone wrong.
Among the stories: being fixed up by a six-year-old; two strangers meeting on a plane; coming out to your prom date; even the author's own story of how he credits his existence to a piano, a jeep, a college, and the Army.
What makes this collection unique is that every story isn't about love being realized. In some cases, the potential only exists and even passes without materializing.
No matter what your experience with love so far, you are sure to find hope, and maybe a hint of your own love story, within the pages of this book.
Reviewed by: JodiG.
[Also available on my blog.]
This was the first book I read that was solely by Devid Levithan. I've read his co-author books with Rachel Cohn, and John Green, and maybe even some of his stories in some anthologies, but none of the books just by him. And after reading this, I'm going to have to get some more.
This is a book of short stories about different characters and their relationships, mostly romantic. They were all really good, and really interesting, and I enjoyed them. Some of my favorites were Starbucks Boy, The Alumni Interview, Princes, A Romantic Inclination, and Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat. But they were all really good. And each one was very different from the other. They had different characters, some had different styles of writing, and they had different messages, different purposes. I was quite impressed, as well as happy, with how much I enjoyed them all.
Most of them were about gay romances, but not all of them were. They weren't all starring a teenage boy. They didn't all have happy endings. Some had songs, one had science. Some were during school, some were during the summer, some had nothing to do with school. Each story had its own story to tell, and they were all very unique and different from the others.
This is a short review, but I don't really have anything else to say. I enjoyed it quite a bit, that's all.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The collection of stories is amazing. I love each of the story. I just love how David Levithan create such wonderful master piece. I love it!Published 3 months ago by erin vinson
This master piece is a collection of your 18 realistic different stories and i find each of them really well driven.Published 3 months ago by Marie Tarango
This is a collection of stories written for Valentine's Day over a number of years. They are all, naturally, concerned with the beginnings of relationships. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Ignite
When you think about a book about romance, you think sweet, fluffy, fuzzy and emotional. But How They Met and Other Stories covered a whole spectrum of scenarios featuring love,... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence
I love the way he can make me forget where I'm sitting and so vividly see the scenes playing out from the page. Amazing story teller.Published 12 months ago by Rachel Simmons
I like David Levithan and originally fell in love with the Lover's Dictionary. This book is cute and has a wide range of love stories. People who meet on planes was my favorite. Read morePublished on January 29, 2014 by ALB
A very hot and cold way of looking at love and relationships. Shows how love comes in all shapes and sizes, or how it doesn't quite come at all. Read morePublished on January 11, 2014 by Kindle Customer
The characters were dull and boring and I really couldnt like any of them and this is a problem for me because these characters had stuff going on and I was bored because I had no... Read morePublished on January 1, 2014 by Emma White