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How They Met and Other Stories

David Levithan






"
I wanted every word to last for hours, every gaze to last for days. I wanted to confiscate all our watches, banish all the clocks "
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Reviewed by Angela Meyer

For fifteen years David Levithan has celebrated Valentine's Day by writing a story about love. How They Met and Other Stories contains final versions of these expressions. Levithan treats love with awe and respect. The stories are mostly from a teen point of view, of first love, and first heartbreak. Even a story about an elderly couple at the breakfast table (Memory Dance) has them transported back to that fateful first dance. 

Sometimes there are obstacles in the way of love, such as a closed-minded parent. In The Alumni Interview, Ian has his college interview with his boyfriendís Dad. Of course, the "sturdy" father has no idea about the relationship. Thom peeks through the keyhole and hears his own father comparing the young man before him to his son who has "no focus". By the end, both young men have had enough and Thom bursts in the room to confront his father. In this particular story, the reaction is difficult and realistic. The reader feels triumphant for the couple who know things are not clear-cut or black and white. 

The only problem with the book, at times, is that there are stereotypical characters. There is only one redeeming parent throughout (the mother in What a Song Can Do). Mostly the parent figures look alike. Mostly the teen characters have no problem being "out" at school but closed-up at home. Perhaps this reflects some contemporary realism, but it would have been nice to see more of a range of situations. There are different points of view in regards to love (eg. boy meets girl/boy meets boy/girl meets girl) but there isnít a lot of originality in the surrounding situations. Teens would perhaps relate to the school environment, including prom stories, and being part of alternative groups or subcultures, but there is often no real challenge to the stories. They are sweet, reflective, humorous, but they come and go. Mostly they skim the surface and suggest possibilities. 

Some of the characters are, however, quite memorable. The sassy and nervy young gay male protagonist in Starbucks Boy is easy to relate to as he develops a crush and over-analyses a look, a brush of the hand, a phrase. The Number of People Who Meet on Airplanes is charming, with the protagonists finding out much later that their encounter was more than luck. Skipping the Prom is a relatable snapshot too, of that time "in-between" when you are aware decisions are going to have to be made, but you just hold onto that moment together when you are so connected. 

Overall, there is much to be enjoyed. It is certainly an easy read, and Levithan does not write down to his teen readers. There are plenty of great descriptions of desire, passion and the physical manifestations of love. Perhaps next time we may be treated to some more complex perspectives, and endings that arenít quite so similar to one another so that the reader is not too intruded upon by the authorís perspective.

Angela Meyer is a Y Gen Australian writer and reviewer. She has been published in books, magazines, journals and online. She is the editorial assistant at Bookseller & Publisher magazine in Melbourne. She is working on a novel set in 1970, and short fiction based on themes of consumerism.

 

PublisherKnopf

Publication Date: Jan 2008

Paperback/Hardback? Hardback

First collection?Yes

Author bio: David Levithan is the author of novels Boy Meets Boy, Are We There Yet? and The Realm of Possibility. He has also co-written novels, is the editor of the PUSH imprint at Scholastic and his short fiction has also been included in publications and collections. Boy Meets Boy has won numerous Young Adult literature awards.

Read an interview with David Levithan


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If you liked this book you might also like....

David Levithan & Billy Merrell (eds) "The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities" 

David Levithan & Daniel Ehrenhaft (eds) "21 Proms"

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