The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
Final Verdict: 3.5 out of 4.0
3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.
It is hard to decide just what to say about David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary, other than it is a unique, delightful, and educational little book about love. Having read two of Levithan’s Young Adult books, I was curious to see just what he could do with adult fiction. Fortunately, I was far from disappointed. The book itself is about two people (Two men? Two women? A man and woman?) who meet, date, and fall in love. Along the way, there are the ups-and-downs of life – romance & humor, loss & betrayal. The narrator uses the letters of the alphabet, one at a time, to place a single word with a single moment in time, and then describes that word and that moment – and what it means for the relationship.
4 – Characters extraordinarily developed
What is such an achievement for this sparsely worded book (some pages have just a few words on them, while others are filled-up) is that, though we never learn who exactly these two people are (no names are given) and though their story is unraveled quite literally in segments – one word plus its definition at a time- the characters somehow manage to grow and to connect with the reader. Their story, too, reaches through the page and allows anyone familiar with romantic relationships (be that one relationship, or twenty) to see something of themselves and their own experiences in it. This couple, like any couple, struggles with some very real issues – substance abuse and adultery being primary. And, like any couple, they struggle to deal with and overcome the problems.
4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.
What is fascinating and unique about this story is that, being written in definitions, it at times feels as if the reader is one or another of the characters. Levithan has written an autobiography of human emotion – we laugh, we cry. We’re encouraged and disappointed. We struggle with when to fight, and when to give up. Being so sparsely written, one can fly through this book in hardly no time at all, but the story still manages to be so engaging, that I found myself slowing down – savoring certain passages, certain words. I dog-eared more pages in this book than in any since War and Peace, and considering this book is about 1/10th the size of Tolstoy’s classic, that is saying something! Levithan is a natural storyteller; his language and style draw the reader in and refuse to let him go – not while the story is in progress, and not even after it’s long over.
Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.
3 – Additional elements are present and cohesive to the Story.
The style and format of the book is in itself an interesting element, one which works well with this particular love story and one which I could see being referenced or duplicated in the future (though hardly, I imagine, with as much success). I also quite enjoyed the fact that it is not truly clear whether this is a straight relationship or a gay one – a male narrator or a female one. Typically, ambiguity like this would be annoying and distracting, and it would bar the reader from really connecting with the story or its characters; however, in this case, it only adds to the overall theme of the story – which is a universal exploration of love in general.
Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: Adult
Interest: Relationships, Romance (realistic), Love, Dating, Linguaphilia, Definitions
Love is one kind of abstraction. And then there are those nights when I sleep alone, when I curl into a pillow that isn’t you, when I hear the tiptoe sounds that aren’t yours. It’s not as if I can conjure you up completely. I must embrace the idea of you instead.”
“’It was a mistake,’ you said. But the cruel thing was, it felt like the mistake was mine, for trusting you.”
“Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough.”
“I want my own books to have their own shelves,” you said, and that’s how I knew it would be okay to live together.”