Saturday Read: Love is the Higher Law, by David Levithan
I feel like I’ve been reading really long, heavy books lately and I was ready for a change. It’s not that they’re not good (on the contrary, they’ve been great!), it’s just that they really weigh down my beach bag and I needed a book that didn’t leave deep, red grooves in my shoulder. I searched my local library (yes, I still use the public library and I LOVE IT. Who doesn’t love FREE STUFF?) high and low for a short, YA read. And I found a fantastic one!
“Love is the Higher Law” is by David Levithan, one of my favorite young adult authors (cha-ching!) and takes its name from U2 lyrics I’ve always loved (double cha-ching!). David is a lifelong New Yorker, who was obviously deeply affected by the tragic events of 9/11. He decided to write this book both as a way to get out his emotions over that traumatic day, and also because he doesn’t think there are enough books about it. Not that he thinks people should abuse a tragedy for the sake of literature, of course, but because he wanted to make sure that day was preserved so in the future, children who were babies in 2001 can read a primary account of what happened.
The novel focuses on three main characters – Claire, Jasper and Peter – and switches between their points of view. They are all loosely intertwined, but become much closer after 9/11. The book goes through how each of the three experience the day and then also how it changes them after. Claire is in her high school class when the planes hit and runs to her little brother’s elementary school. Afterward, she can’t return home for a week and finds herself wandering the streets of New York late at night, looking for reasons and hope. Jasper slept through the whole thing. His parents were in Korea and so he is forced to deal with everything alone. Peter was in line to buy the new Bob Dylan album. All of them experience 9/11 in ways only a New Yorker can: Two pillars that figuratively held up their hometown have been destroyed and they question everything they knew and completely reassess.
Last year, I traveled to New York with my family. We went on a day-long tour of the entire city that included Ground Zero. To be honest, I was sad on 9/11, but I didn’t really comprehend it until I was there. I was so moved at Ground Zero I began to cry. Even thinking about it now makes me tear up. Because I now have this emotional connection to 9/11 and New York, however small it may be, I appreciated “Love is the Higher Law”. It was interesting to relive such an infamous day through literature, especially through the eyes of Levithan, who really understands human emotion. Plus, his writing is just superb. Even though this book was only 176 pages, I copied down pages and pages of beautiful quotes.
If you’re looking for a quick yet deep read, look no further. “Love is the Higher Law” really makes you grateful for every day and I think it’s good for everyone to have a reality check once in a while. Enjoy!