Review: Love Is the Higher Law by David Levithan

Love Is the Higher Law - David Levithan
Two other people, a couple, have seen us and are now using their own lighter to save more candles. It feels like the right thing to do, even though the light we make doesn’t change what’s happened. We are making our own temporary constellation, and it doesn’t spell a single thing.

Another novel by Levithan and here I am, loving every second of it. I can’t pinpoint exactly what makes his stories so compelling for me. All I know is that whenever I sit down to read his words and stories puts a certain calm inside me. Even here, a story about three different people on the day of 9/11, I feel calm even with their scattered thoughts running on highest speed. Even within this chaos of towers falling, I feel calm, secure. However, I feel far from indifferent. The fear of missing families. The fear for friends sharing the chaos, and just strangers on the street. Levithan makes me share all this in Love Is The Higher Law.

So Sammy and I say goodbye to Spencer, and this is the point—now that his mom is here—that Spencer begins to cry, loudly protesting that he doesn’t want to leave, that school’s not over yet. He’s crying about the wrong thing, and I find myself almost jealous of that.

As a non-american, even I remember the 9/11. I can remember honoring those lost in the attack with a silent minute every year. I was 5-6 years when it happened, and it’s still fresh. But, as someone without real ties to the event, I have never read any other books about this day. Maybe I’m biased here due to Levithan being the author and that I haven’t read any other books, but I’d like to think I’m not. Because, as in many other cases, I feel that these kind of events are more often shown from a mature eye rather than children and teens POVs. In Love Is The Higher Law we’re introduced to Jasper, Peter, and Claire, all different people with different reactions to the terror. While their actions might be questioned – such as Jasper and Peter going on a date just a couple of days after the attack – there are all confused feelings in motion here. They face hard questions such as what’s truly matters in the aftermath. While the book focuses on the day and jumps to a few days within the weeks following, then a few scenes from years ahead, it shows those moment when everything was in chaos in a brilliant way. 

I’ve gone from being sure she’s dead to being unsure she’s alive, and that’s much scarier, because it almost feels rational.

I enjoyed (which sounds like the wrong word considering the matter at hand) meeting Jasper, Peter, and Claire. Jasper with his I-don’t-care-attitude lives in Brooklyn and is woken up on the day of the attack with his parents calling from Korea to inform him of the attack. He’s the person to make inappropriate jokes. Some might find his character indifferent at times due to this, but I believe people with his personality is needed in situations as this. He who can take a step back and look at it, perhaps not with humor, but not with an overwhelming grief. His coming to terms with feeling alone in the time that follows is a wonderful ride. And Claire. I loved her. She’s one of those who thinks, and she thinks a lot. She think and speak just to say words that she hopes will make the next words make sense, even when they don’t. Due to this, she drops some great words to reflect on. Not just on the attack, but about people around her who are close, yet not close at all. About that feeling of being a people, a nation, a community. In whole, life in general. Peter was perhaps the least interesting person, but even he had his moments. When I say least interesting person, that is nothing bad. It only means Jasper and Claire became more fascinating in the big picture. One of my favorite quotes is this:

This isn’t one of those changes when you wake up and wonder when it happened. We all know where the line was drawn.

Something to say for the character are that, despite the short length of this novel, they are well-rounded and fleshed out.

As always, Levithan has a way with words. At this point I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll write anything I won’t appreciate. I mean, this novel is about 9/11 – and a short one at that – yet, he touches me with every word, every emotion in his characters, just everything. He has a way of putting thing so blunt it’s impossible not to feel the full impact of his messages. And, unlike some authors, he doesn’t preach. It’s just there, leaving you the options to make what you want with the option he hands you.

This is what a memorial is:
Standing still, staring at something that isn’t there.