Reviews for Love Is the Higher Law


Booklist Reviews 2009 June #1
Levithan's stab at the great 9/11 novel captures the intersecting angles of fear, confusion, rage, and compassion that clashed in the wake of the attacks. We see the horrific morning through the eyes of three New York teens: Claire, dutifully at school; Peter, standing outside Tower Records to snag Dylan's latest album; and Jasper, asleep for the first wave. Their immediate reactions differ, but together they express a common yearning for a reprieve from media-drenched paralysis and endless what-iffing, without wanting to duck the full jet of emotion cauterizing the city. A romance between Peter and Jasper claims the bulk of the narrative weight, as Claire becomes mostly an injection of purity who helps brings the two together. There's no question that this is powerful stuff, honestly felt and deeply conveyed. Yet the story may resonate more with those who were teens or even adults at the time of the attacks rather than the intended audience, whose memories and feelings may not align with the characters. Ultimately though, this novel's multiple levels of emotion, trauma, and recovery nail many of the simultaneously personal and universal sentiments unleashed after 9/11. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Spring
In alternating chapters, the novel's three main characters describe living in New York City after the attack on the World Trade Center. The teens, at first loosely acquainted, become closer as they learn to cope together. Levithan eschews stock characters and self-help cliches to portray distinct individuals who deal with grief and uncertainty in different ways. A powerful story about emotional rescue. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #5
It begins with Claire, a high school senior, watching the school secretary whisper something to her teacher; next is college student Jasper, sleeping through it all; and last there is Peter, another senior, waiting outside a record store to buy the latest Bob Dylan. These are initial memories of September 11, 2001, and, in alternating chapters, the novel's three main characters follow with accounts of living in New York City after the attack on the World Trade Center. The characters, at first loosely acquainted, become closer as they learn to cope together. They not only share feelings about the traumatic event but recount "normal" episodes from their lives -- romantic crushes, bad first dates, worries about getting into college. Levithan eschews stock characters and self-help clichŽs to portray distinct individuals who deal with grief and uncertainty in different ways. The tone of the narration switches between reflective and intense, mirroring the confusion and commotion of the time. Nor does the writing shy away from the political, especially with Claire, who desires peace and is disgusted by the calls for revenge and the march to war. This is a powerful story about a rescue -- an emotional rescue, where three young people help one another adapt to major shifts in their understanding of the world and rediscover hope. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2009 July #2
Crafting a young adult novel about 9/11 is no easy feat. A triptych-like framework breaks the event into three experiences that reflect both those who witnessed it firsthand and those who saw it from a distance. Claire sees the attack from the windows of her downtown high school. Peter watches the second plane hit while standing in line at Tower Records. Jasper, home from college and hung over, oversleeps and sees the World Towers collapse over and over on television. Emotions swirl and love is found, lost and regained. The characters feel current within the historical setting, but the music and film references read more like 30-something ephemera instead of 2001 teen culture. Levithan stumbles most with voice: Often Peter's and Claire's lose their clarity and pack too much wistful adult wisdom. Though not pitch-perfect throughout, Jasper's feels the strongest, especially when he struggles through a fumbling date with Peter. Their scenes together are the most memorable, probably because love stories are what the author does best. He's got two here: one between the two boys, one between New York City and humanity. (Historical fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 August #1

Levithan (How They Met, and Other Stories) successfully takes on the task of writing a 9/11 novel that captures the heartbreak of the events of that day through the eyes of three teenagers. Claire, in school that morning, finds herself drawn to late-night walks downtown. Her classmate Peter, waiting outside Tower Records to purchase the new Dylan album, watches the towers fall. And college student Jasper, who had previously met and planned a date with Peter, spends the day collecting papers that have blown into Brooklyn from the World Trade Center ("Something as mundane as two sheets of paper from an office file could provide the final evidence of how vulnerable we are"). Over the next weeks and months, they slowly and tentatively connect with each other, engaging in a healing process parallel to the one New York City itself experiences. Levithan renders the three distinct voices of his characters convincingly, and if some stylistic gambits (notably a 12-page paragraph conveying Peter's post-9/11 uncertainty) miss, more often than not Levithan brings genuine emotion to his portrayal of three broken teenagers helping each other heal. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)

[Page 45]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 September

Gr 8 Up--Claire and Peter are friendly acquaintances at their New York City high school. Jasper is a freshman in college. They attend a mutual friend's party, and Peter and Jasper make a date for the evening of September 11, 2001. They reschedule and have an excruciating date a week later. Claire and Jasper meet again by chance at Ground Zero when neither can sleep. Claire is called to action, Peter is reverent, and Jasper, a kind of "expert dodger," can't feel a thing. The three come to develop a deep friendship. Levithan's character development is quick and seamless. He defines the trio's personae by how they perceive the tragedy, how they interact, and how they observe the world. The author's prose has never been deeper in thought or feeling. His writing here is especially pure--unsentimental, restrained, and full of love for his characters and setting. Though the trio's talks and emails are philosophically sophisticated, Love Is the Higher Law is steadily paced and tightly, economically written. Discussion of the U.S. invasion of Iraq feels like overkill, but it brings the novel to an appropriately queasy end. Levithan captures the mood of post-9/11 New York exquisitely, slashed open to reveal a deep heart.--Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library

[Page 164]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2009 June
Claire, Jasper, and Peter's lives are only loosely connected, but when the World Trade Center is hit by a plane on September 11, a series of events are set in motion that will change their lives forever. Peter and Jasper must come to terms with how they can begin a relationship when their world has been shattered; Claire and Jasper find kindred spirits in one another while looking out upon Ground Zero; and Peter and Claire find friendship and comfort in one another. Told in Levithan's distinctive style of relating a story in multiple points of view, this book blends New York culture with popular music. Two protagonists are gay, but the focus is on their reactions to the events that unfold rather than on their homosexuality. Readers in places far removed from New York might experience a disconnect, as could those who were younger on that tragic day. The pacing is slower than some might be used to, but the story is filled with thought-provoking arguments and well-crafted dialogue, rewarding patient teens with a satisfying ending. This title might sit on the shelf initially, but with booktalking or as part of the curriculum, it should prove popular enough.--Robbie Johnston PLB $18.99. ISBN 978-0-375-89468-1. 4Q 2P J S Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.

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