Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
Published: 25 August 2009 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 176 (paperback)
Genre/s: Young Adult, GLBT, Contemporary
Source: Own library
First there is a Before, and then there is an After. . . .
The lives of three teens—Claire, Jasper, and Peter—are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents’ frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he’s okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire’s, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him.
Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other’s in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by.
David Levithan is one of my few auto-buy authors. I'm pretty selective when it comes to my auto-buy list because I'm 1) not a good fangirl and 2) I like to be sure that even if it's an author I'm mad about that the actual synopsis appeals to me. With Levithan being pretty much king of that auto-buy list however, I simply purchased Love is the Higher Law without even reading the synopsis and it wasn't until I picked it up that I realised it is about 9/11.
On 9/11 I was still living in Australia. Half a world away, but it was still a profound moment in history, and I can still remember where I was, who I was with and what I was doing when I first heard what was happening. And the idea that such a terrible moment can imprint itself so definitively in our minds is the basis of Love is the Higher Law.
Told through the eyes of three characters who are in New York on the day of the attacks, unlike many other Levithan books, there's not really either a focus on romance, or on GLBT characters. There ARE GLBT characters, and there is a semi-romance, but what this book is really about is the impact that 9/11 has on Claire, Jasper and Peter in the next twelve months.
The beginning of the book is intense - it jumps straight into the terror attacks and what happened in New York City - evacuation of nearby buildings, the reaction of New Yorkers just wanting to help wherever possible and the personal reactions - terror, grief and disbelief.
At certain parts, two characters tell their own perspective of the same scene, and that really added an extra dimension to the situation and helped me to like all the characters much more than if I'd only read one POV of each scene. Jasper is probably the one that I connected with the least, and at times I didn't really understand his motivation, but by the end of the book it all started to make more sense and I could appreciate why he reacted as he did.
Love is the Higher Law is a short book, but it has a big emotional impact. Levithan's style is distinct but also comfortingly beautiful - and he's not afraid to include a few controversial messages whilst telling a compelling, sad and ultimately hopeful story.