Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet?

3.5 4
by David Levithan

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Tricked by their parents into taking a trip to Italy together, two brothers--one in high school and the other recently graduated from college--reflect on the directions of their own lives and on the distance that has grown between them. See more details below


Tricked by their parents into taking a trip to Italy together, two brothers--one in high school and the other recently graduated from college--reflect on the directions of their own lives and on the distance that has grown between them.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It is clear in this novel that Levithan (Boy Meets Boy) knows at least two things well: tourist spots worth visiting in Italy and the dynamics of fraternal relationships. Soon-to-be-high-school-senior Elijah and his successful businessman brother, Danny, have been tricked by their parents into taking a trip to Italy by themselves. The brothers, who have become distant over the years, dread the prospect of spending time together overseas. Elijah, who has an aversion to growing up, doesn't want to leave his boarding school friends, and Danny, who is becoming a rising star in advertising, doesn't want to miss work. Nonetheless, the boys agree to embark on a nine-day tour of Venice, Florence and Rome. As the book progresses, flashbacks from childhood juxtaposed against awkward moments abroad offer insight into how the brothers view each other, why they drifted apart and most importantly, offers proof that the bond between them still exists and becomes strengthened during the course of their travels. Elijah meets, loves and loses a girl from Canada; Danny reunites with a childhood friend. These two events prove to be pivotal in forcing both brothers to take stock of where they have been and where they are going with their lives. Introspective, moving and honest, this book expresses many dimensions of journey and love. Ages 14-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Elijah and Danny are brothers who were once close but have lost the ability to connect with each other. Danny, in his early 20s, has gotten a job he is proud of, while Elijah, still in high school, sees life as something to experience. They each feel the other is unwilling to try to get to know them as they are now. Their parents interfere with the best intentions and maneuver their sons into taking a trip to Italy together. The cities the boys explore serve initially to emphasize the disconnect they feel from each other. The two brothers come to appreciate being with each other, especially when a new friend proves to be less than Elijah had hoped. As the ten-day vacation draws to a close, Danny and Elijah each have an epiphany that is made stronger when they realize it is shared. Readers will identify with the brothers, especially the one that corresponds to their own sibling rank. A lyrical, well-written story that shows the ties siblings feel whether they want to or not. 2005, Knopf, Ages 12 up.
—Vicky Ludas
Seventeen-year-old Elijah and twenty-three-year-old Danny are brothers who have grown apart. Their lives are so different that they simply do not communicate anymore. Elijah enjoys the social aspects of high school, surrounded by friends and invited to all the parties. Danny is a loner, driven to succeed in a competitive work environment. To please their parents, they grudgingly agree to spend nine days together in Italy. From the moment that they board the plane, Danny and Elijah almost unwillingly begin to rediscover each other as well as the magic of Italy. Then Julia arrives on the scene, and the tenuous bond between the brothers is tested. Levithan demonstrates a gift for storytelling as he writes with grace and style about intelligent characters and situations. Elijah and Danny are clearly smart and talented; the reader is engaged from the first page by their perceptive observations. Levithan's use of present tense and alternating voices of both main characters create a fluid narrative. There is also a sense of adventure in these pages. The joys of losing oneself in a city; the indescribable power of Rome's Pantheon; and the wonder of Venice are all experienced vicariously through Levithan's skillfully chosen words. Older teens will find it a literate, thoughtful novel. The drug and sex references are appropriate for the story and are authentic to the characters. This novel is unique, fresh, and a pleasure to read. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Knopf, 224p., and PLB Ages 15 to 18.
—Judy Sasges
Children's Literature - Meredith Ackroyd
When two brothers, Elijah and Danny, are tricked by their parents into taking a vacation together to Italy, it doesn't seem that the trip can possibly go well. On the verge of entering adulthood, the two bothers have grown apart over the years, with Danny taking a path into the business world and Elijah following a more artistic, experimental road in college. Though they remember a time when they were younger and closer, the brothers feel that they are worlds apart. It doesn't seem likely that traveling half a world away from their usual lives will bring them together, and, indeed, as the brothers make their way through Italy, they end up spending more time apart than they do together. By the end of their journey, however, the two boys find a way to reconnect with themselves and with each other, realizing both "what is lost" and "what is never lost" between brothers. A retelling of E. M. Forster's A Room with a View, Levithan's young-adult novel grapples with issues of identity, relationship, and coming of age in boys' lives, adroitly recasting the well-known tale of connection not in terms of a girl's relationship to her lover, but in terms of a boy's relationship to his brother. The result is a beautiful and powerful family story about growing up, growing apart, and staying connected.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Danny Silver, 23, is a workaholic advertising executive; his laid-back, 17-year-old brother, Elijah, absolutely drives him wild with his untied sneakers and lack of focus. The teen, who once idolized his sibling, now feels that he would never want to be Danny. The brothers are tricked by their parents into vacationing together in Italy. They both dread the experience, believing that they have little in common. Once abroad, they tiptoe around one another, connecting when they're in museums together, a reminder of childhood occasions spent similarly with their mother and father. They both doubt that there is enough between them to rekindle a bond. And then Elijah has a chance encounter with a college dropout with whom he falls head over heels in love. When he introduces Julia to Danny, she finds that she's attracted to him, too, and that catapults Danny into a situation in which he has to determine his priorities. The insightful and gently humorous narration alternates between the thoughts and experiences of the two brothers. Teens will relate deeply to Elijah and gain insight into Danny's attitudes as well. Levithan, author of Boy Meets Boy (2003) and The Realm of Possibility (2004, both Knopf), gets better and better with each book. This novel will appeal to a broader audience than the earlier titles and is a priority choice. References to sexual behavior and marijuana and acid use are included.-Susan Riley, Mount Kisco Public Library, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Danny and Elijah are brothers who seem to have nothing more in common than parents and gender. Elijah is a free-spirited thinker heading into his last year at a private coed high school, and Danny is a type-A, up-and-coming ad executive. In an attempt to warm their relationship, their parents trick the two into taking a trip to Italy together. Elijah falls for-and beds-an older woman who is really more interested in Danny. Danny toys with the idea of pursuing her, but he becomes completely turned off by the way she treats his brother. Heartbreak, a walk down memory lane and a shared Jewish heritage bring the boys together to a believable degree as they return to their lives in the States. Levithan works his magic creating two real and round narrators in a series of poetic vignettes. The alternating point of view not only fleshes out the brothers and their relationship, it also keeps the simple story moving. Obviously written or at least set before the Iraq war, this beautiful glimpse of fraternal love will be at home in any public library's YA section. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.88(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)
770L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


The phone rings at an ungodly hour. Elijah looks at the blur of his clock as he reaches for the sound. Eleven in the morning on a Saturday. Who can be calling him at eleven in the morning on a Saturday? Cal, his best friend, stirs from somewhere on the floor. Elijah picks up the phone and murmurs a greeting.
"Oh goodness, did I wake you?" Elijah's mother asks, her voice so much louder than the dream he'd been having.
"No, no," he says, disguising his own voice to sound awake. "Not at all."
"Good, because I have some great news for you. . . ."
His mother is talking about Italy and Elijah's brother Danny and luxury accommodations. He thinks his brother has won a prize on a game show or something. Cal starts hitting his sneaker like it's a snooze button. He tells her to go back to sleep.
"What did you say?" his mother asks. "Will you go?"
"Does Danny want me to go?"
Elijah doubts highly that Danny wants him to go.
"Of course he does."
Elijah still doubts that Danny wants him to go.
Cal is awake now, rubbing her eyes. Elijah's boarding school frowns on having overnight guests, but Elijah doesn't really care if it frowns.
Elijah covers the receiver and whispers to Cal, "It's my mom. I think she wants to know if I want to go to Italy with my brother."
Cal shrugs, then nods.
That's enough for Elijah.
"Sure, Mom," he says. "And thanks."

Elijah always says thank you, and oftentimes says please.
"You're such a relic," Cal will taunt him playfully.
"Thank you," Elijah will reply.
Elijah learned quickly that saying thank you garners a variety of reactions. Some people (like his brother) can't handle it. Other people (like Cal) are amused. Most people are impressed, whether consciously or not. He'll be offered the last slice of pizza, or the last hit from the bong.
"You're a relic, not a saint," Cal will continue, dragging him to the next party, parties called gatherings, dances called raves. Where she leads, he will follow. She tousles his blond-brown hair and buys him blue sunglasses. He playfully disapproves of her random boyfriends and girlfriends, and gives her flowers for no reason. They smoke pot, but not cigarettes. At the end of most parties, they can be found woozily collecting cans and bottles for the recycling bin.
Elijah had planned to spend the summer hanging out with Cal and their other friends in Providence. At first, his parents weren't too thrilled about the idea. ("Hang out?" his mother said. "Sweetheart, laundry hangs out.") Now he's being sent to Italy for nine days.
"I'm going to miss you," Cal says a few nights before Elijah is scheduled to leave. They are walking home from a midnight movie at the Avon. The June night is warm and cool, as only June nights can be. The air is scored by the faint whir of cars passing elsewhere. Elijah inhales deeply and takes hold of Cal's hand. Her hair—dyed raven black—flutters despite itself.
"I love it here," Elijah says. He is not afraid to say it. "I love it here, this moment, everything." He stops looking at the sky and turns to Cal.
"Thank you," he whispers.
Cal holds his hand tighter. They walk together in silence. When they get back to school, they find four of their friends on the common room's lime-green couch. Mindy, Ivan, Laurie, and Sue are playing spin the bottle—just to be playful, just to be kissed. The moment shifts; Elijah is still happy, but it's a different happiness. A daylight happiness, a lightbulb happiness. Cal arches her eyebrow, Elijah laughs, and together they join the game.
Elijah is the first to grow unconquerably tired, the first to call it a night. Cal is still laughing, changing the CD, flirting with the lava lamp. Elijah says his good-nights and is given goodnights in return. The world already misfocusing, he makes his way to bed.
Ten minutes later, there are two knocks from the hallway. The door opens and Cal appears, brightness behind her. It is time for their ritual, their nightly ritual, which Elijah thought Cal had forgotten. Sometimes she does, and that's okay. But tonight she is in the room. Elijah moves over in his bed and Cal lies down beside him.
"Do you wonder . . .?" she begins. This is their game—Do you wonder? Every night—every night when it's possible—the last thing to be heard is the asking without answer. They stare at the glow-in-the-dark planets on the ceiling, or turn sideways to trace each other's blue-black outlines, trying to detect the shimmer of silver as they speak.
This night, Cal asks, "Do you wonder if we'll ever learn to sleep with our eyes open?"
And in return, Elijah asks, "Do you think there can be such a thing as too much happiness?"
This is Elijah's favorite time. He rarely knows what he is going to say, and then suddenly it's there. Above them. Lifting.
A few minutes pass. Cal sits up and puts her hand on Elijah's shoulder.
"Good night, sleep tight," she whispers.
"Don't let the bedbugs bite," he chimes, nestling deeper under the covers.
Cal smiles and returns to the party. Elijah rearranges his pillows and fits himself within the sheets. And as he does, he wonders. He wonders about goldfish asleep with their eyes open. He wonders about Italy, about his parents, about whether the stars will be brighter in Venice. He hears voices at a distance, the lively sound of voices from the common room. Like the spots of color whenever he closes his eyes. He closes his eyes. He thinks about what a wonderful friend Cal is. How lucky he is to have such friends, all of his friends. He is happy. He is almost empty with happiness. . . .

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