Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “David Levithan”

Idgiepug’s #CBR4 Review #52: Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

I made it!!!!  I knew I could read 52 books in a year (and probably do most years), but I wasn’t sure about the reviews.  I started off the year strong, refusing to allow myself to start a new book until I finished the review for my last novel.  As the year wore on, though, I began to fall behind, and I’ve stayed behind ever since.  I still have a bunch of books on my “to review” list, but I’m happy to have made it to 52.

Every You, Every Me re-affirmed my love for David Levithan after the slightly disappointing Are We There Yet?  The novel is quite different; it’s focused around a series of photographs, and Levithan claims that he wrote the story as the pictures came to him from photographer Jonathan Farmer.  Main character and narrator Evan begins finding photographs and realizes quickly that they are being left purposefully for him and that there is some connection between the pictures and his missing best friend, Ariel.  Evan tells the story, but he’s telling it to Ariel even though she’s not around anymore.  The novel presents two mysteries: what happened to Ariel and who is leaving the pictures.  Evan knows what happened to Ariel, and he alludes to it frequently, but the reader has to wait to find out.  Both the reader and Evan get caught up in the mystery of the pictures, and we begin to question Evan’s reliability as a narrator and his sanity at points.  When he writes to Ariel, he strikes out words and sentences as he composes his story, which could be annoying, but I found it to be an interesting look into Evan’s thought process.  I rushed through the book because I was so caught up in solving the mysteries, but I would have liked to have gone back and re-read it both with and without the crossed-out words to see how they changed the story.  When I finished the book, I recommended it to some of my co-workers as a possible book to read with our lower-level students because the book is easy to read but geared toward teens.  It’s been criticized a bit for being too angsty or “emo,” but I really liked it and I think most kids would too.

I was completely engrossed in this novel and had a hard time putting it down.  I deal with emotional teenagers all the time, so maybe my tolerance is higher than most, and I loved that the novel’s style felt new and interesting.  I plan to read it again soon to see what I missed in my first rushed reading.


Idgiepug’s #CBR4 Review #46: Are We There Yet? by David Levithan

Continuing my David Levithan mania, I picked up Are We There Yet?  Sadly, through no fault of the novel itself, I didn’t enjoy this story as well as the other Levithan novels I’ve read.  Really, it’s not the book’s fault; I just couldn’t relate to the characters as well.  I sympathized with their problems, but their experience is so different from my own that it was hard to really understand them.  Also, any book probably would have paled in comparison to Boy Meets Boy, so it was even more unfortunate that I read this one after that one.

Anyway, the novel is about two brothers, teenaged Elijah and grown-up Danny, whose parents “trick” them into taking a vacation in Italy together.  The brothers are very different from each other, and neither one really knows what to do with the other.  Uptight, hardworking Danny doesn’t understand his free-spirited little brother, and Elijah can’t figure out why Danny is so focused on work.  The relationship becomes even more strained with Elijah meets a young American woman who is also staying in Italy and begins spending all of his time with her.  Danny warns his brother to be cautious with his emotions, but Elijah falls hard for the girl.

Like Levithan’s other books, this novel is well-written and the characters were realistic and interesting.  As an only child, though, I had a hard time empathizing with the characters.  The main conflict is the one between the brothers, and I felt sorry for them but just couldn’t really understand the ups and downs of their relationship.  Like I said, though, this is my problem, not a problem with the novel itself.  I imagine most people would enjoy it more than I did.  I still love Levithan’s work, and the next one of his novels I read was fantastic.  Hopefully, I’ll get to that review before the end of year.

Idgiepug’s #CBR4 Review #44: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

I picked up David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy immediately after reading Will Grayson Will Grayson, which Levithan co-wrote with John Green.  Before I get to the review, though, a funny side story – I got this at the library in my very small very conservative town, and as I tried to use the self-checkout, I got a message saying that this book, alone among the stack of books I was checking out for myself and the little pug, couldn’t be borrowed using the self-checkout option.  I was worried that it was “flagged” somehow because it’s about gay kids.  Living with conservatives can make a person paranoid, you know?  Anyway, it was just a smudgy bar code (so they say), so I didn’t have to go all Lamda Legal Defense Fund on the poor librarian.  Anyway, the trouble was worth it because this was one of the best YA romance stories I’ve ever read.

Boy Meets Boy is set in a fictional town that I wish was real.  The local high school’s cheerleaders ride Harleys, the star quarterback is a six-foot-plus transvestite called Infinite Darlene, and the narrator’s homosexuality is accepted as a matter of course by just about everyone.  Paul, the narrator, has lived his whole life in this comfy little town and has been friends with Joni since grade school.  When Paul meets newcomer Noah, he instantly falls for him, but his attention to Noah is distracted by his assignment to “architect” the school’s annual dance, Joni’s new relationship with a boy Paul can’t stand, his ex-boyfriend Kyle who suddenly wants back into Paul’s life, and his friend Tony whose parents are religious zealots (they live in the next town over, not in Paul’s idyllic gay-friendly community) who have a very difficult time accepting Tony’s homosexuality.  The beauty of the novel lies in the descriptions of young love: the giddiness of those first few touches, the aching insecurities and self-doubts, the sweetness of quiet moments together.  Because Levithan creates an accepting community, Noah and Paul’s story is just a love story in which the characters happen to be gay rather than a gay love story.  It highlights the universality of the experience without making a big deal about it.  Though the novel is set in the present day, the fictional town feels like a vision of the future if the future works out the way I hope it does.

Obviously, I loved this book.  I read it twice in quick succession because I wanted to stay a while longer in Paul’s world, and Levithan’s description of young love was so spot-on that reading it was almost a visceral experience.  For those of us a bit (or a lot) beyond the age of the target audience, the novel is a nice reminder of the highs and lows of high-school romance.

Idgiepug’s #CBR4 Review #43: Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

As I continue making my way through the novels of John Green, it’s occurred to me that I don’t really have a favorite genre, expect maybe YA fantasy, but I have several favorite authors.  I tend to get obsessed with an author, read everything he or she has written, and then flounder around for a few weeks or months until I find someone new. It means I don’t read as much variety as I should, but I also rarely get stuck with books I don’t like.  So, my new John Green crush let me to the novel Will Grayson Will Grayson which Green co-wrote with David Levithan.  The book is creatively written, darkly funny and deeply sad, and one of my favorite John Green novels so far.

The novel alternates between two teenaged boys named Will Grayson who live near Chicago.  They take turns narrating chapters, and it’s easy to distinguish between the two because one Will Grayson capitalizes correctly and the other doesn’t capitalize anything.  Caps Will, whose parts were authored by Green, is a fairly privileged straight kid whose best friend is a very large and very gay kid named Tiny.  Tiny is constantly falling in love and getting his heart broken, and caps Will is always helping him pick up the pieces.  Because of his own experiences and Tiny’s, caps Will has sworn off love, but he finds his resolve wavering as he spends more time with Jane, a fellow member of their school’s Gay Straight Alliance.  Lowercase will lives with his single mother and has a best friend named Maura, but his relationship with Maura has suddenly and inexplicably become strained and difficult.  Lowercase will retreats into a burgeoning online relationship with Isaac, a boy he’s never actually met.  The stories come together when both Will Graysons find themselves in the same sex shop.  Caps Will has been abandoned by Jane and Tiny because his fake ID didn’t quite work out as planned and made him only 18 instead of 21, and lowercase will was supposed to meet his online crush for the first time at the shop.  From there, their stories continue to intertwine even though they tell them separately chapter by chapter.

In the hands of lesser writers, the novel’s dual narrator format might have interfered with the story or been just a cheap trick, but both of these authors are very good at writing stories about teenagers.  The two Will Graysons are fully realized characters, and their stories work well told side-by-side this way.  The end of the book gets a little crazy, especially as Tiny works to produce and direct his autobiographical musical Tiny Dancer, which is well received in a way that no gay-themed theater production would ever be received in a real high school, but the basic topics here – love, friendship, trust, betrayal, etc. – are skillfully written to be believable.  This was a good book that continued my John Green love and inspired a mini-affair with David Levithan as well.

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #18: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary is a dictionary, with one brief entry per page attributing some aspect of the relationship to relevant word plucked from the dictionary.  This is a love story, told in an A through Z series of moments and reflections. Calling it a love story is almost misleading; it’s more appropriate to call this a lover’s story.  Written from the boyfriend’s perspective, each dictionary entry is an ode to something about his girlfriend: her personality traits, his favorite memories, his least favorite memories. This is their love through his eyes, defined by the words he chooses.

This is a quick read worth reading. The last book I read, Louise Erdrich’s Shadow Tag, included an extensive discussion of whether our lives consist of moments. The husband in that book, also an artist, believed we’re defined by moments: the moment we fell in love, the moment we met our best friend, the moment we fall out of love. The wife doesn’t believe in moments, she believes in history; that our lives are defined by long periods of gradual change rather than sudden realization.

Regardless of your philosophical views, our memories seem to be dominated by moments.  When you consider your relationships with others, whether it’s your relationship with your ex, childhood friend, or estranged relative; you remember precise pieces of that relationship. A character trait exemplified by distinctive example; the happiest moment you ever spent with them; the time you really noticed what they looked like.

And there’s more!

BanannerPants’s #CBR4 Review #04: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

The praise on the cover lied to me. I waited a few days after reading it to review it to allow my feelings to settle. I have to keep reminding myself that  am not this book’s target audience and that perhaps the parts I had trouble with are the parts that were the message to its intended audience. (It’s a national bestseller and received high praise; not liking it makes me feel bad.)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a YA novel written by John Green and David Levithan. They each wrote half the book, alternating the chapters. Each had their own Will Grayson. With that, they each had their own style. On one hand the separate styles further distinguish the Wills from each other—their personalities come through in the way they’re telling their stories. On the other hand, it feels gimmicky; it’s an obvious way to show perspective shift hidden in a clever style-choice.

There are two Will Graysons. Will Grayson doesn’t seem to be that uncommon of a name, however, I imagine when you meet someone with your exact name, you’re taken aback regardless. The book’s back cover would have us believe that the Will Graysons meeting each other has forever and drastically changed the course of each boy’s life. I find this hard to believe.

First of all, we know they’re going to meet because 1. it’s practically the title, and 2. it’s the hook printed on the book to draw you in. However, this inciting incident doesn’t actually happen until Chapter 7, on page 110. If this were a David Foster Wallace magnum opus of 1200 pages, page 110 might be early for an inciting incident. This is not the case. 110-pages is almost halfway through the book. Therefore, I believe their meeting wasn’t really the inciting incident to the story at all; it’s a coincidence, an anecdote, a path to a catchy title. Of course, it didn’t do nothing, but it didn’t create cold fusion either.

The praise on the front cover reads “Funny, rude and original.” I didn’t laugh and I wasn’t very put-off. As far as originality goes, it may be, but not always in the best possible ways. It seems original that Will Grayson #1 is obsessed with Neutral Milk Hotel, they are a very original band. They released one 11-song album in 1998 that Will Grayson spends hours listening to and parsing apart, even though he doesn’t like all of it, but still, it’s his favorite band. That just seems sad.

Perhaps it’s the antagonist of the story who is original—Tiny Cooper. He’s really less of an antagonist and more of just an anti-protagonist. In an attempt to not stereotype him, the authors failed to ground him in anything. I failed to connect with him; he remained an amorphous blob to me the entire time.  He is the biggest link between the two Will Graysons.  He’s the best friend and the boyfriend and his presence and subsequent absence in each of their lives is the engine of the story.

The book isn’t bad, I just found a few parts hard to believe. I’m attempting to suspend my disbelief since I am not a YA, but I still have a hard time believing teenage boys talk to each other that much. Also, I don’t believe the musical described in the pages could have been produced in 9 days for $1000. I was originally critical of the musical itself—it was schmaltzy and over-the-top, and not realistic. At the same time, if I wasn’t such a cynic, I would have thought it was lovely, and its message was actually quite nice. It was about love and appreciating the people who are around you, so I guess I can’t shit all over a YA novel trying to teach that hard-learned lesson.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is an easy read and might be really enjoyable for an actual 17-year-old. Rumor has it, however, John Green’s newest—The Fault In Our Stars—is his real triumph.

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