I definitely have to add David Levithan to my list of favorite authors. As I may have mentioned before, I adored Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (which he co-wrote with Rachel Cohn), and this weekend I finally got around to reading Wide Awake. And I loved it. Loved. It.
Wide Awake is set in the near future, just after the election of the first Gay Jewish President. Obviously, the political landscape has changed a bit – and Duncan (our protagonist), fills in the historical gaps:
It all started, I guess, with 9/11, decades before I was born. America was in shock, and the politicians decided to use fear to get what they wanted. Fear of mass destruction. Fear of nonwhites and non-Christians. Fear of the unknown. As more bad things happened (caused, in part, by the way we alienated the nonwhite non-Christians with our fearful aggression), the politicians had more fuel for the fear they were creating… The Greater Depression had begun. And the President decided her needed to end this depression the same way the first Great Depression had ended. Pandering to our fears and singling out “extremists everywhere,” he launched the War to End All Wars. As everybody knows, it didn’t work. The Reign of Fear began to lose its grip… leading to Stein’s candidacy. (11-12)
However, soon after Stein’s victory is a close one. He has won the electoral college by only a thousand votes in Kansas. (Think Florida in the 2000 election). The Governor of Kansas, a member of the uber-conservative Decents party, requests a recount, and Stein and his supporters have to head to Kansas to demonstrate and make sure that the recount is done fairly. Duncan and his boyfriend Jimmy have been working for Stein's campaign, so naturally, they head down to Kansas with a group of friends.
It's an interesting concept, but what really makes it work is Levithan's writing. Like his descriptions of Nick in Nick & Norah's, his characterization is perfect. He just has a gift for describing human emotions in a way that makes them so easy to relate to, such as in the following passage about Duncan's insecurity in his relationship:
I’d been so insecure when we first started going out. I’d spent so much time much time counting. How many times he kissed me first versus how many times I kissed him first... No matter what the tally was, I always lost. I was always thinking in terms of too much or not enough, rarely allowing myself that crucial space in between... Gradually, the columns began to tip. I lost track of keeping track… But there were still some moments, moments like this one, when I felt the despair of the that not enough, of the forgiveness I wouldn’t allow myself to take. (26)
As much as I hate to admit it, I've been that person (okay, my boyfriend would probably say that I still am) -- but I could never in a million years describe it that well.
Okay, I could quote Levithan for forever (and as evidenced by the number of people who find my blog by searches for "quotes nick and norah" and other such things -- so could quite a few other people). And while this novel probably isn't for everyone (yes, I did say that Duncan has a boyfriend and I can see some people being turned off by that) -- the emotions in the novel are just so real and the political stuff is really interesting. (I do love dystopias* -- and this was sort of like what happened after they fixed the dystopia)
* John Green's books are like that too -- can I just take this moment to say how happy I am that An Abundance of Katherines is a Printz Honor book? :D
*Oh, and if you like dystopias, go see Children of Men -- it was amazing!