Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

Title:  Love is the Higher Law
Author:  David Levithan
Release date:  August 25, 2009
Publisher:  Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages:  176
Genre:  Young adult fiction, historical fiction
Source:  Library

On Friday, September 7, 2001, Claire, Peter, and Jasper all attend a mutual friend’s party.  Claire and Peter are acquaintances who are seniors at a New York City high school.  Jasper is a college freshman, just wrapping up his summer at home.  Peter and Jasper have a fun night together, and plan a date for the following Tuesday.  Then Tuesday happens – 9/11 – and everything changes. Love is the Higher Law is a book about the After.  About how nothing was the same after the towers fell, about how these three teens changed drastically having seen the tragedy play out in their backyard.  And about how no matter how devastating something might seem, there is always love to be found.  Because love really is the higher law.

I’m actually surprised that I haven’t read too many books that deal with 9/11.  The only other one that comes to mind is Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  I wasn’t intending to read a book about September 11 when I picked this one up – I saw that it featured a relationship between two teen boys and decided to read it for the GLBT challenge.  But, I’m telling you, I got so much more from this book than I was expecting.  It kind of took my breath away.

What got me about Love is the Higher Law was the raw emotion.  Everyone remembers exactly where they were on 9/11/01, and for Claire, Jasper, and Peter, they were right in the city as the terrifying event was taking place.  Reading about these characters’ experiences really hit home for me because I was their age on 9/11.  I was a high school senior, I was sitting in class when the first plane hit, and I remember so vividly the million emotions that were going through my head at the time.  And I was all the way in Chicago, far away from the physical danger of it all.  To even imagine being in New York City, in high school no less, as the towers fell, well the idea of that just sends shivers through me.  The way these three characters dealt with the disaster and the emotional rollercoaster that came after it really brought up memories of my own experiences surrounding 9/11.

Levithan truly captured the essence of New York City post-9/11.  I’ve never even been to New York, but through his words I felt transported there.  I could feel the sidewalk below my feet, I could smell the smoke in the air, I could see the tears on the faces of New Yorkers.  It was such a surreal experience, reading this book.  I absolutely love when an author can create a sense of a place this well, and in this case it was a heartbreaking sense of place, but amazing just the same.  I felt like I was right there with Claire, Jasper, and Peter, as they experienced the city.

The relationships between the characters, especially the on/off relationship between Jasper and Peter, were very well-written, but honestly they kind of took a backseat to each characters’ relationship with New York City.  The city and the tragedy that befell it meant different things to each of the three of them – and experiencing it through their eyes was such an experience.

I know that I haven’t done this book justice, because I really, really loved it, and I’m not too good at expressing that love properly.  I highly recommend picking it up. Love is the Higher Law is a book that I know will stick with me for a long, long time.

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17 thoughts on “Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

  1. Heather, I think you expressed your love for the book really, really well.

    There is an immediacy to young adult lit that I just love. I haven’t read anything about 9/11 yet (it still seemed too raw, and here it is almost 10 years later) but I think I’m ready and this could be a good place to start.

    BTW if you’re looking for another book for the GLBT challenge, I have one on tour in May that would fit the bill. Email me if you’re interested in hearing about it!

  2. I was a lot younger when 9/11 happened but I really think reading books about the event is still important. It’s one of those “big” things that will never be forgotten about our generation and time. I hadn’t even haerd of this book – not even a blip on my radar – but it’s defintely going on my list after your review (which was really great – I understand perfectly having read it why you loved this book).

  3. This is the first that I’ve heard of this book but it sounds really, really good! I’m definitely going to have to pick this one up so thanks for sharing your thoughts on it!

  4. Fantastic review. I was at work when 9/11 happened and because of the job I had then we all got sent home. Once I was home I just stared at the TV for hours. It was a truly horrific day. This book is now on my must read list.

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