How They Met Review

how-they-met3

Levithan, David.  How They Met and Other Stories.  New York: Alfred Knopf, 2008. 

244 Pages

Q4 – P3 – S

Grades 9-12


David Levithan tells the reader in the introduction to this collection that they aren’t about to read a collection of love stories; they are stories, rather, about love, in all it’s forms.  Many of the stories here were written as Valentines day pieces he created in high school physics class and had given as  gifts to his friends. Love is indeed Levithan’s mastered theme.  His writing on the complicated subject from many points of view and many walks of life seems effortless, natural, and oh so relatable.  Levithan’s teen characters are self-conscious, but witty, insecure and awkward but with moments of articulate clarity and brevity in their situations.  In MIss Lucy Had a Steam Boat the narrator, Lucy, is dumped by a girl whom she was completely and totally infatuated with.  It never occurred to her that, “a person could know all the right things to say and deploy them to get what she wanted, without having to mean any of it.”  She comes to shun the idea that, 

‘you have to be with another person to be happy…/  I was going to say it was okay to be alone, when it felt like everyone in the world was saying that it wasn’t okay to be alone, that I had to always want someone else…”

In general, there’s a lot of bits of wisdom for teens to pick up in these stories and use in their life and encounters (emotionally and otherwise) with the big L-word (ah, Loooooove).  The concept and realities of love can be especially tricky, illusive, and awkward for teenagers.  Getting a boyfriend/girlfriend is often a big deal and teens find it validating but sometimes for the wrong reasons.  The stories here show that love and companionship are things that more often then not surprise you, that can show up and leave when you least expect it or wanted it and that there a million shades of gray in the middle.  By reading about the diverse experiences of other people’s relationships from the safety of a book, teens share in  the characters revelations about love right along with them, making for a empathetic experience about the universality of feelings like: loneliness, betrayal, heartache, rejection, liberation, shame, lust, hope, true love, self-esteem, and self-worth—just to name a  few.  All of these emotions show the subject of love for all it’s simplicity, complexity and reality.  Levithan isn’t afraid to discuss real issues like the struggles of homosexual teenagers to come to terms with who they are and find love in a world that is largely judgmental and disapproving of their real self.  Teen sex is also mentioned but teens will find his decision not to shy away from these issues refreshing and appreciate the wisdom in these stories all the more.  In many ways his portrayals of sexuality are healthy: they show teens both enjoying sex and the emotional consequences of doing so (sometimes they are positive and sometimes they are negative).

The cover is appealing and seems to be a minimalist metaphor for the simplicity of attraction.  It speaks to the adage that opposites attract and teens will find that intriguing.  They may be attracted to someone very different hat them and have no idea why so this book cover draws them in with the promise of answers

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