Monday, March 30, 2009

David Levithan

Be it within a short story or a full-length novel, David Levithan always seems to create characters and scenarios which are realistic and relevant. Most of his books are led by teenaged guys who are trying to figure out something about themselves, and probably their friends, and maybe even the world around them.

Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I sing the praises of David Levithan's writing. Opportunity seemed to knock a lot last fall: When Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist was made into a film, I encouraged everyone to read the book (co-authored by Levithan and Rachel Cohn) before they saw the movie. As the presidential election heated up last fall, I talked Wide Awake up to customers and posted about it at both Bildungsroman, my blog, and SparkNotes. We also recommended Wide Awake at readergirlz last November.

I've read all of Levithan's novels to date. My favorites include:

Boy Meets Boy: What if someone's orientation was a non-issue? If people honestly, truly accepted gay and straight (and questioning) without question, and recognized love as love? Boy Meets Boy is a romantic comedy for ANYONE, but especially for teen boys who might be shy (or curious) about their orientation, and especially for librarians, teachers, and booksellers who support GLBTQ rights and wish more places would do so without blinking an eye. Here's a little peek inside of Boy Meets Boy:

There isn't really a gay scene or a straight scene in our town. They got all mixed up a while back, which I think is for the best. Back when I was in second grade, the older gay kids who didn't flee to the city for entertainment would have to make their own fun. Now it's all good. Most of the straight guys try to sneak into the Queer Beer bar. Boys who love boys flirt with girls who love girls. And whether your heart is strictly ballroom or bluegrass punk, the dance floors are open to whatever you have to offer.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist: Take the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, set it at nighttime, make the main characters perfect strangers, and turn up the volume on your favorite rock CD, and you'll be in the right mindset. Nick & Norah have one wild and crazy night in the city filled with music, connections, and discovery. They tell their story back-and-forth, in alternating chapters, with Rachel Cohn writing for Norah and David Levithan writing for Nick. If you like going to live concerts and getting lost in the music and the crowd, if you like meeting new people and finding new bands, or if you like just driving around a busy city and seeing where the night takes you, you will definitely like this book.

What did you think of the movie? Did you read the book first? Tell me in the comments below!

Wide Awake: Set in the not-too-distant future, when a gay Jewish man is elected President and those results are challenged. His supporters include two young men, concerned teenagers at the center of our story, who are learning to stand up for their rights and speak out from their hearts.

Levithan's other major works include:
The Realm of Possibility - A verse novel, set at a high school, told from a dozen different POVs.
Are We There Yet? - Two not-so-close brothers, ages 16 and 23, take a trip to Italy.
Marly's Ghost - A modern-day version of A Christmas Carol set on Valentine's Day.
Naomi & Ely's No-Kiss List - Yes, girls and guys can have strictly platonic and very close friendships. Another collaboration with Rachel Cohn.
How They Met, and Other Stories - A collection of 18 short stories, unrelated except for their overall theme: "stories about love."
Due out in 2010: Will Grayson, Will Grayson - A collaboration with John Green (author of Looking for Alaska and other GLW-worthy reads!)

He is also one of three authors who work on the Likely Story series, in which a teen girl - the daughter of a famous soap opera actress - develops her own daytime soap. The series byline reads "David Van Etten," which takes the last name of one of the writers (Chris Van Etten) and the first name of others (Levithan and David Ozanich).

In addition to his work as a novelist, Levithan is also an editor. He founded PUSH for Scholastic, an imprint which has GLW written all over it. He has also contributed to a number of anthologies.

Kudos, David, for your highly approachable, commendable, and recommendable works.


tanita✿davis said...

Oh, I really like David Levithan. Boy Meets Boy is my all-time favorite book of his.

Little Willow said...

Thumbs up, Tanita.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry, but I couldn't disagree more about Levithan. This guy drives me nuts. I think he can speak very personally and insightfully to an underserved audience and there are a few times where it seems like he might just do that. Instead, he is too concerned with being the "Cool Kid" or trying to impress his audience with how "edgy" he is. But he doesn't understand teenagers, at all. He offers no insight to them, and he spends too much writing time proving how clever he is. If you really think Levithan is that great, look at one of the scribes from his Push imprint, Coe Booth. She's edgy, and a tremendous talent, that really understands teenagers and their mature and complex problems. She talks to them, realisticly and honestly, without pandering to what she thinks they want. Ugg. Levithan.

Little Willow said...

Scott: Different people have different favorite authors.

We'll be featuring KENDRA by Coe Booth at readergirlz in August.

Aaron Hartzler said...

Couldn't agree more with this post. Perhaps this sounds dramatic, but the insights David Levithan offers teen readers about reconciling sexuality and religious bigotry in Boy Meets Boy must certainly have saved lives. To do so without being precious or talking down to anyone is an achievement indeed. Congrats to David for his 2009 Lambda Literary Award nomination for How They Met, his latest book--a collection of short stories.

Laina said...

You should really give Rachel Cohn credit for Nick & Norah, too. It's her work, too.

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