Book 23: Love Is The Higher Law

Book Title: Love is The Higher Law
Author: David Levithan
Published: 2009
Pages: 163
Category: Fiction: young adult
I loved this book.
I went through quite a search to get it too. After I read Will Grayson Will Grayson, (review located here) which was co-written by David Levithan and John Green, I started actively trying to find more books written by David Levithan. At the same time I started to think about how I buy my books, and came to the conclusion that I spend too much money buying from large companies like Amazon.ca.  I know I can always find the books I’m looking for on Amazon, but I feel guilty every time I shop from my computer – so I decided to shop locally. This however, posed a problem of availability. After a fruitless search, I asked my favourite local bookstore; Bolen Books to order it in for me. A week and no shipping charges later I picked it up. Promptly spent the whole evening reading it and crying.


You see, Love is the Higher Law is the story of three teenagers, three New Yorkers, beginning on a Tuesday morning in September in 2001. The story follows the way their experiences are intertwined, and the way in which they deal with an incomprehensible tragedy in the days, weeks, months, and year following. The changes and challenges they go through, and the questions they ask themselves and others.
I was in grade 9 on September 11th, 2001. I was far away from New York, and had never been there. (Still haven’t, unless you count a four hour layover in JFK airport, which I don’t.) And yet, it had an impact. As I would take a guess to say it had an impact on most North Americans. A morning I won’t soon forget, and a morning I revisit every year, writing a similar blog post or journal entry, every year. Seeing if this year, maybe this year, I will be able to make some sense of it.
While the stories of these New York Teenagers are wildly different than my own recollections in some respects, there are underlying chords that I instantly clung to as similarities. One in particular was in reference to the newscasters, the ones who kept trying to talk us through that day, that event.

“Did you see Peter Jennings by the end of the day yesterday?” he says. “I swear, the man was up for forty-eight hours straight, trying to explain this unexplainable thing. If it weren’t for him and Brokaw and Dan Rather, I think we would’ve had riots in the streets. They’re the ones who calm us down. Not our fake of a president.” (49)

There are other distinctly poignant moments that stood out for me as well. When one of the characters, Jasper, upon going to give blood, is denied from doing the one thing that he can think to do to help, because he is gay. When Claire is struggling to find the lesson, asking herself a question I wondered too.

“I want to know why this is such a part of me. I want to know why this thing that happened to other people has happened so much to me. I keep looking for the lesson.” (104)

These kids, who’s days each start out normally, different than each other’s days – in school, asleep, buying a record – form a bond throughout the aftermath. And through their bond we learn something about grief.
Or maybe its even simpler than that. It’s not even learning about grief, its about shared grief. Reading this book was cathartic in the way that my retelling of my story every year helps. In telling and sharing we bleed off some of the poison of these memories. And learn something about ourselves in doing so.

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