Teens’ Top Ten: An Introduction to David Levithan
Over 32,000 teen readers cast their vote for the 2013 Teens’ Top Ten, and The Hub is celebrating their choices! Today we feature David Levithan, whose book Every Day is #8 on this year’s Teen’s Top Ten list.
David Levithan has been such an instrumental part of making LGBTQ stories a forefront for YA literature, and he has been writing for long enough that I was lucky enough to read some of it when I was still a teen. In 2003 YA literature, while still flourishing, looked a bit different than it does now, and LGBTQ-themed novels where nobody died or came out dramatically were hard to come by. As someone who did not die or come out dramatically, Levithan’s work was in many ways lifesaving for me. I like Levithan in part because I like a male author who writes female characters well, and I especially like a male author who paints queer female characters with the same careful, intricate brushstrokes he lends to their queer male counterparts. In short, Levithan’s work played a huge role in my adolescent years, and I’m always a bit baffled when people tell me they have not yet read anything by someone who constitutes a veritable giant in YA literature.
The Hub featured an interview with David Levithan not too long ago, so to celebrate his Teens’ Top Ten win, I’ve put together a “primer” or introduction to some of his most significant and diverse contributions to YA literature.
- Boy Meets Boy, 2003 (Winner of the Lambda Literary Award)
The first novel Levithan published is also one of the first books I suggest to anyone looking to become familiar with Levithan’s work, because it is ultimately very “classic” Levithan. Like many of his novels it is part speculative, and takes place in a world where bigotry based on one’s sexual orientation or gender expression simply does not exist. Boy Meets Boy is, at its core, simply a love story between two high school boys, but it is also a fun take on the romantic comedy “boy meets girl” plotline most of us are familiar with. Boy Meets Boy is a 2004 Best Books for Young Adults selection.
As little as seven years ago, collaborative fiction between YA authors was far less common than it is now. Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist was the first book I ever read that was written by two authors who write alternating perspectives about two main characters, and I remember thinking that it was a genius way to tell a love story. Which, like most of Levithan’s work, is what Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist turns out to be. Plus, it was adapted into a movie that was actually pretty good. This title was named a Top Ten Quick Picks and Best Books for Young Adults selection in 2007.
Set in the near future, Wide Awake’s world is one in which a gay Jewish man has been elected president of the United States, until there is, more or less, a recall, and a young gay couple decides to rally in support. This book feels intensely personal and will, I suspect, resonate with any young activist. I read it in college when I did my fair share of protesting and rallying, and I never forgot how Levithan managed to capture the exact way you feel when you realize how much an election is going to impact your own life.
If you read these three books, you are going to want to read more David Levithan, which is excellent, because he has written a lot more. And if you’ve never read anything by this author whose work helped shape a genre, I humbly submit these three novels as your introduction.
-Chelsea Condren, currently reading Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce