Title: Love is the Higher Law
Author: David Levithan
On the Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary
“First there is a Before, and then there is an After. . . .
“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.
David Levithan has written a novel of loss and grief, but also one of hope and redemption as his characters slowly learn to move forward in their lives, despite being changed forever.” ( Goodreads 2013)
Before this, the only work by Levithan I’d read was Nick and Norah- co-written with Rachel Cohn, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson- co-written with John Green…and I was not impressed either of them, both just seemed like another over-hyped contemporary YA book.
Love is the higher law is different. It consists of a event which is difficult to tell a story about- which seems daft when then entire world experienced it, at least to some degree. This book is reassuring for a number of reasons. Firstly, as someone who was 11 years old at the time, it resembles my exact feelings at the time of 9/11 because I remember exactly where I was and how I felt when I saw those planes hit those skyscrapers on the television.
At that time, as an 11 year old, I didn’t know hate of other cultures or nations personally, I just knew fear. 9/11 changed the way people viewed that which they did not understand for the worse, and in a way, that scared me more. I always felt a little guilty for being afraid, when I didn’t even live in America- I didn’t experience this event “first hand” like they did, it didn’t “involve me”…and yet, I was scared and heartbroken for those who lost people they loved. This book has reminded me I felt that way, and reassured me that I certainly was not alone in those feelings.
It was only a few years later, that the English witnessed a similar event at 7/7, which I always feel got slightly overlooked by worldwide media (yes I’m bitter about it, it may not as been as huge as 9/11 but people still died as an act of terrorism). This event reminded me as a 15 year old of the fear and the unavoidable moral panics that would follow. But what baffled me is I felt exactly the same feelings for 9/11 as I did 7/7 despite one of them not occurring in my own country/against my own nation.
But like Levithan, in the aftermath of these acts: I looked for the acts of kindness, love and bravery which occurred as a result of these horrific events, rather than the hatred and fear. It gave me hope. It still gives me hope. Humanity is greater than hatred. Kindness is greater. Love is the higher law. While it is in our nature to hate what scares us and that which we do not understand, it is also in our nature to come together in times of distress and just be there for each other.
Thank you Levithan, for reminding me of this.