Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Recommendation: David Levithan

I was so excited when I attended NCTE in November to learn that David Levithan would be there.  Several of his books have made their way onto my all-time favorites list, and I routinely recommend them.  Some of his more recent reads haven't been my cup of tea, but I'm not one who lets a bad book get in the way of a good author (see J. K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy).  At NCTE, Penguin was selling Levithan's Marly's Ghost for $5.00 and tossing in a galley copy of Levithan's newest novel Invisibility with Andrea Cremer for free.  I was so pumped.  I read Marly's Ghost, which is a Valentine's Day version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, on the plane ride home and was disappointed by its lack of originality.  Levithan wrote in his author's note that "for the actual writing, I sat with a copy of A Christmas Carol on my lap and went through it paragraph by paragraph, line by line, 'translating' the original story into my new story...some lines stayed verbatim."  This attention to detail is obvious and not for the betterment of the novel.  An idea that could have been interesting and refreshing turns out stale.  I began Invisibility with higher hopes.  For one, in reviewing Levithan's body of work, I found that I tended to love his collaborations more than his standalones.  Two, this was not billed as a remix but as a totally original work, unlike Marly's Ghost.  I am ashamed to admit that I couldn't get past the third chapter.  Because of some weird curse, I obviously never got far enough to figure it out, Stephen is invisible - others can't see him and therein lies the problem: there is nothing to distinguish him to the reader either.  He is a flat, one-dimensional character.  Elizabeth, who is the only one who can see Stephen, seems to have more bite and body, but even that wasn't enough to keep me going.  After two epic fails, I decided I needed to catalog what I loved and hated about Levithan in a tangible way.  At first I thought it was his collaborations I loved and his standalones I hated, but as Invisibility proved, it's not as black and white as that.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn) (my first David Levithan)
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares (with Rachel Cohn)
The Lover's Dictionary
How They Met and Other Stories

Didn't Love

Marly's Ghost
Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List (with Rachel Cohn)
Love is the Higher Law 


Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green)
Every Day

Did Not Finish

The Realm of Possibility
Invisibility (with Andrea Cremer)

Maybe someone with keener insight can find the commonalities for me.  The breakdown of my list seems so arbitrary.  I am not giving up on Levithan though.  I have heard fantastic things about both Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Every Day, so I will definitely be reading them as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.  The premise of Every Day reminds me of The Lover's Dictionary, which I loved (no pun intended), and Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a collaboration with John Green.  What are the chances two of my favorite authors will let me down in the same book?


  1. I've heard such fabulous things about Every Day. Most of the time I either like an author or I don't, but this is a very interesting break down and I can see why you liked some and not others. Just from the description, I don't think I'd like Marly's Ghost, but on the other hand so many of his other novels sound really good. An unusually mixed bag, if you ask me, but definitely good to know!

    1. It is a really mixed bag in terms of content, collaborations, and even format! I can't put my finger on it, but I'm going to keep reading while I figure out. I may stumble across more gems! Let me know if you read Every Day what you think!