The Short Version:
The story of a love affair, told not chronologically but alphabetically.
As an unabashed romantic and unrepentant word-user, this book was a tiny slice of perfection. It manages to encapsulate so much of how we feel in any given relationship while remaining specific to the individual story at hand.
By god, there are quite a number of words. It’s an impressive commitment, really: you decide you’re going to write a book structured as a dictionary, you damn well better make it feel like a dictionary… and Levithan certainly does. I enjoyed the witty aside about x, too. Although I personally would’ve used the maybe-not-actually-a-word cheat of the following:
A kiss when I can’t kiss you in person.
I mean, it’s on the cover: this book has a huge beating heart. It’s looking at a relationship through a prism, through a kaleidoscope – and that’s what makes it feel much more intimate and truthful than many other relationship novels. It’s true because it doesn’t have all the right definitions.
Definition can be a scary thing. Defining a relationship is probably the hardest thing to do next to breaking up with someone. But in reality, definitions are simply finding words to explain other words – at least, to a linguistic individual like me. So these dictionary entries that might be an entire scene or might be a simple sentence… they’re more revealing than an actual definition would be. In being verbose and rambling, they end up providing a clearer definition than a simple “this is what I meant” could ever hope to provide.
favorite, adj. and n.
It’s hard to choose my favorite entry – but if I were to have a favorite, it would be the one for ‘love’. I took a picture – take a look:
light, n. and adj. and v.
The book zipped by in a single sitting. Under an hour. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t make me swoon. But in this case, the light tome ends up providing such radiant beautiful light…. it so perfectly captures my feelings about relationships. All of our collective feelings about them. It’s a thing of beauty, a simple clean thought to light one’s way or lighten one’s mood.
Rating: 5+ out of 5.
It is, I think, a perfect book for any time you’re engaged in a relationship: the first dates, the serious-ing, the exclusivity, the hurt, the break-up… It’s beautiful written and ambiguous enough that it’ll appeal to a wide swath of people. Because we all deal with this thing we call love – but no one ever knows exactly how to put it into words. David Levithan’s book is probably the closest thing I’ve ever seen to actually putting the concept-at-large into words. We do it all the time in our own special idiosyncratic ways when we fall for someone, but for the feeling itself as pertains to the human race? I can’t think of a more charming and lovely way to explain it as it exists in this wondrous moment.