Love is the Higher Law by David LevithanPublished by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Blurb: The lives of three teens—Claire, Jasper, and Peter—are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents’ frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he’s okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire’s, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him.
Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other’s in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by.
Review: For those who are too young to remember, or for those not yet born, September 11, 2001 might seem like some date in history. Maybe they know about it because their parents or older siblings talk about it sometimes. Or maybe they know about it because every year on that day their school does something to remember those who died. But for someone like me, who was just a year younger than the characters in the book, I remember all too vividly what happened on that terrible day. Reading this novel brought back every single emotion I felt on that day. Like Claire, I was mesmerized yet terrified by what happened. I may have been a state away in Connecticut, but it still shocked me to my core. In this book, author David Levithan has perfectly recreated those confusing days in the eyes of teenagers who experienced it.
Suddenly there's this big scream from the classroom next to ours - at least ten people yelling out. Mrs. Otis goes to the door connecting her room to Mr. Baker's, and about half our class follows, so we're there when she asks what's going on. But nobody needs to answer - Mr. Baker's gotten his TV to work, and it's not one but two towers that are burning, and they're saying on the TV that there was a second plane, that the towers are under attack, and seeing it erases any premonitions I might have had, because even if I felt something was wrong, I never would have pictured this.The novel follows Claire, Peter, and Jasper. All three are loosely connected to each other. Claire and Peter go to school with each other, Peter and Jasper met at a party and were supposed to go on a date, and Jasper finds Claire on the street where she remembers him from that same party where he met Peter. Because of their shared experiences on 9/11, they form an unbreakable bond, and the book follows them in the days, weeks, months, and years after the events.
What I liked most about the book was how the characters always asked other people "where were you when it happened?" or "what were you doing?" For those that lived through this day, it's a phrase that was heard often. I even tell my own students my story when they ask about it on September 11th every year: I was a junior in high school, gym class had just started, and we were getting ready to go outside to play tennis. We heard from someone who had heard from someone else who had heard it from a teacher, and of course we thought it was a joke. The teacher announced outside that a second plane had hit and we went back inside. I was in art class when the towers fell and I watched them on the television. I have never heard our school grow so quiet or felt more terror at one time in my entire life before or since.
Let Claire, Peter, and Jasper take you through that day, through their eyes, and from those around them. See how others grieved and started to move on. Like them, become a part of the history. Even if you weren't there for it, even if you weren't born yet, you can still get a taste of the horrors through this masterfully crafted novel from David Levithan.
Review by Jennifer