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Wide Awake [Kindle Edition]

David Levithan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $8.99
Kindle Price: $6.74
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Book Description

In the not-too-impossible-to-imagine future, a gay Jewish man has been elected president of the United States. Until the governor of one state decides that some election results in his state are invalid, awarding crucial votes to the other candidate, and his fellow party member. Thus is the inspiration for couple Jimmy and Duncan to lend their support to their candidate by deciding to take part in the rallies and protests. Along the way comes an exploration of their relationship, their politics, and their country, and sometimes, as they learn, it's more about the journey than it is about reaching the destination.

Only David Levithan could so masterfully and creatively weave together a plot that's both parts political action and reaction, as well as a touching and insightfully-drawn teen love story.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up–In this novel set in the near future, The Decents, who use God and family values to spread hate, are in the minority. The real Jesus freaks, who feel He would have loved everybody regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation, have prevailed. Gay, Jewish Duncan Weiss, 17, is elated when gay, Jewish Abe Stein is elected President of the United States. Then the governor of Kansas calls the election into question. The teen and a busload of his friends travel to Topeka to join millions in protest. Duncans arc from well-meaning bystander to political participant stands as allegory to the uselessness of empathy without action. Levithans dialogue is as natural and evocative as ever, and elegant, persuasive political speeches help sustain the wondrous mood. Duncans friend Gus, a campy man-slut who ends each sentence with la, provides much-needed comic relief. The members of The God Squad, Janna and Mandy, are equally natural and believable. Oddly, though, the romances lack juice. Duncans earnest narrative will engage any teen who has felt powerless, but his militant boyfriend, Jimmy, is just too flat to care about. Keisha, Mira, and Sara, a love triangle of indistinguishable lesbians, speak of pain that readers never feel. The story still moves briskly, by force of the uncertain outcome more than by involvement with the characters. However, in conjuring a world where every vote actually counts, Wide Awake stands with Levithans extraordinary Boy Meets Boy (Knopf, 2003) in sheer creativity of plot, setting, and message.–Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In Boy Meets Boy (2003), Levithan created a town where being gay is no big thing. In his latest, he imagines a future America--after the Reign of Fear, after the Greater Depression, the War to End All Wars, the Jesus Revolution, and the Prada Riots. Living in this not quite but almost believable America are Duncan and his boyfriend, Jimmy, who start out the book rejoicing that Abe Stein, both gay and Jewish, has been elected president. Unsurprisingly, however, the governor of Kansas demands a recount, causing both Stein supporters and Stein haters to travel en masse to Kansas. Into this politically charged atmosphere go Duncan and Jimmy, who experience what proves to be a life-changing journey for them and their country. Levithan is best when he's focused on the two nuanced teenagers. Duncan's first-person narration--vulnerable, insecure, caring--absolutely sings, and his relationship with the outspoken Jimmy has all the awkwardness and intensity of first love. Clearly responding to current politics, Levithan's vision of the future occasionally dips into heavy-handed moralizing, but politics are so well integrated and thought-provoking that those moments are forgivable. As much about love as about politics, Levithan's latest reaches out to shake readers awake, showing them how each person's life touches another, and another, until ultimately history is made. Krista Hutley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 244 KB
  • Print Length: 242 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0375834672
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001FSL2FI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #598,710 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the politically-oriented teen December 1, 2006
David Levithan's newest novel, "Wide Awake," is a political novel set "in the near future." Here's the set up:

"The Greater Depression happened. The events of 3/12 and 7/23 happened. The Andreas Quake and Hurricane Wanda. The President launched his War to End All Wars, which only managed to create more wars and the tragic events of 4/5. The Greater Depression deepened. Millions of people died, and there was no way to erase their faces from the more renegade open news channels, which wanted to remind everyone how bad the government had let things get. The Decents and their program of Denial Education reached their peak."

The hero and narrator of "Wide Awake" is a Jewish, gay teen named Duncan who is engaged politically for the first time in his life. After all the troubles of his childhood and the generation(s) before, it seems as if a new era is on the horizon. His presidential candidate, Abraham Stein, a Jewish gay man with a partner and children, has been elected. People are behaving differently, celebrating their ethnic, cultural, and sexual differences. And supporting them all is a sizable group of Jesus Freaks.

"For the Jesus Revolutionaries, the answer was clear: Jesus would not be out waging "preventative" wars. Jesus would not be withholding medicine from people who could not afford it. Jesus would not cast stone at people of races, sexual orientations, or genders other than his own. Jesus would not condone the failing, viperous, scandal-plagued hierarchy of some churches. Jesus would welcome everyone to his table. He would love them, and he would find peace."

Sounds like a utopian novel so far, right? But there's a hitch. A hitch in the form of Kansas. Stein's election is being contested. To the tune of 1,000 votes. (Sound familiar?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too November 4, 2006
Decades from today, the results of the election are out, and for the first time in the history of the United States, a gay, Jewish president, Abraham Stein, has been elected. After the Greater Depression, the War to End All Wars, the Reign of Fear, and the Jesus Revolution, the moment has arrived. Seventeen-year-old Duncan, who has spent the last few months working with his boyfriend, Jimmy, as a volunteer at the campaign headquarters, can finally stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance because at last the words "with liberty and justice for all" make sense.

But soon everything will take a 180-degree turn. The governor of Kansas, a member of the opposition party, demands a recount. Stein is determined to fight back, and asks all the people who have elected him to go to Kansas and show their support. Everyone at the election headquarters decides to board their bus that night and join this pilgrimage to Kansas.

Duncan, always insecure, always wondering about what Jimmy will think and what will happen to their relationship, knows that going to Kansas is the right thing to do. It's the once in a lifetime opportunity to help write history, and he decides to board the bus despite his parents' disapproval.

However, the trip proves to be more challenging than he thought. Duncan and Jimmy's relationship seems strained. Their friend Keisha finds out that her girlfriend, Mira, was having an affair with another girl in the group. And when the group arrives in Topeka, Kansas, they have to endure the insults and vicious attacks of the Decents (the supporters of the opposition party). They camp out in the center of town, along with more than half a million other people, with not much food, only a few accommodations, and no quick resolution in sight. Will it be worth it?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wide Awake June 29, 2012
I adore political young adult novels. I just love them. Despite many falling in the 'young adult' category not yet being able to vote, we are people and we are passionate about the world we live in. It is so great to hear voices of fictional teens who feel the same. Wide Awake is the stuff of a beautiful liberal idealistic heaven, and has to be one of the best books I've had the pleasure of reading. And he does it so great, too, with his typical mindblowing writing combining with perfection of a plot. He could have easily used the political victory as the ending, but instead took the hard and ultimately more rewarding road of tackling the end at the beginning. While some of the made up historical events seem a little hokey, once they're explained, it's totally believable, albeit idealistic. And while this may be deemed a 'political YA', more than anything this novel is about finding who you are and reconciling your identity with society's dissenting opinions on who you "should" be, whether dictated through social, cultural, or religious "rules". The "Jesus Revolution" mentioned in this book is a beautiful concept and I could only dream of such a thing happening in my lifetime, the idea of religion going back to its roots of love and kindness for all. Stein is kind of a simple character, and elements of the story seem simple, but there are so many amazing qualities found in this book. Religion could easily have been written off as a force of evil and hate. Instead, Levithan takes the effort to imagine people complexly and recognize that religion itself is not inherently good or bad, but a force for potential action in either direction, often both directions, in complicated, tangled up ways. This book is political, but it is about so much more than that. The personal doesn't automatically have to be political, but man, can the political be personal.

Rating: 5/5
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Hopefully and beautifully written
For the first time, a Jewish and openly gay man is elected as president of the USA. That shouldn't mean anything, should it? But it does. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Joha at Littles Books
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful imagination
Reading the synopsis of Wide Awake, I found it difficult to see how David Levithan could pack religion, politics and sexuality into a book that's just over 200 pages long and make... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Kat
3.0 out of 5 stars naive, even for a teen novel
As it is written for teenagers, I can forgive the cheesiness of some of the sub plots.

It is set in the future when a gay Jew is elected president of the United States... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Mr. D. P. Jay
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
It's a quick and good read. I was introduced to Mr. Levithan by Ellen Hopkins. I am a HUGE fan of her work and she recommended that I try his books. I have since read several. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Heather D. Jackson
1.0 out of 5 stars Wide Awake
boring -- how many 15 year olds are going to go cross country on a political escapade? they can't even vote! Did not enjoy the book at all.
Published on September 6, 2012 by Daryl
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!
I love Levithan, I really really do. I loved this book, I swear I did, but I had such a hard time reading it. Read more
Published on March 24, 2012 by Bunn1
4.0 out of 5 stars Context Makes the Book
This is the fourth Levithan book I've read, and I'd say it's my third favorite. That said, one should take into account how much I adore the two books above it on my favorites... Read more
Published on November 20, 2010 by highlyillogical
4.0 out of 5 stars Sarah's Random Musing review
Abe Stein has been elected as the first gay Jewish President of the United States of America. It was a victory by only the state of Kansas. Read more
Published on July 20, 2009 by Sarah Woodard
5.0 out of 5 stars David Levithan for President
It's an interesting universe Levithan creates in WIDE AWAKE. So far, we've had the contested election -- wait, make that TWO contested elections. Read more
Published on May 17, 2008 by Jay
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Book
Wide Awake is an excellent paradigm-shifting book that I highly recommend to teens and adults. As an adult, I greatly appreciate how the author wove powerful political and societal... Read more
Published on November 14, 2007 by Great Fan of Books
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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 

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#97 in Books > Teens
#97 in Books > Teens

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